Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" it seems that an Air Force brochure offering advice on "Sexual Assault Prevention & Response" offers nuggets of wisdom that are ... umm ... just a bit awkward, in light of the arrest, for sexual assault, of the guy in charge of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention program. Obtained and posted online by Wired, the brochure from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina counsels victims that "it may be advisable to submit than to resist." Aside from the atrocious construction of that sentence, that's a hell of a bit of advice to have handed out by a program headed up by a guy who, assuming the charges prove well-founded, would probably very much like his victims on the submissive side.In a bit of news that brings to mind, "
According to U.S. News & World Report:
Arlington police have charged Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski with sexual battery after a woman reported he grabbed her breasts and buttocks in a parking lot in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 5, before fighting him off.
Stars and Stripes reported Monday that Krusinski had been removed from his position as head of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch. He will be arraigned on Thursday, where an Arlington judge will determine under whose jurisdiction he will be tried. The Air Force has requested jurisdiction over the case.
Wired reports that the brochure was provided "by Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group that raises awareness of sexual assault within the military."
The brochure is “an affront to victims”, [Protect Our Defenders spokesman Brian] Purchia told Danger Room. “The Air Force should be passing out pamphlets to our men and women in uniform on how not to commit sexual assault. … This brochure is just the latest in a long history of failed programs and policies. The military’s sexual assault prevention campaigns are rooted in a wrong headed 1950′s paradigm.”
Actually, I see nothing wrong with instructing people on how to avoid dangerous situations and how to defend yourself if attacked. But, while the brochure (you can see the whole thing here) does advise "rolling under a car," screaming and being aware of surroundings, the closest it comes to defensive tips when under attack is to advise:
If an attacker does manage to get into your car do everything in your power to exit the car, if possible, do not let attacker take you to an isolated area. If you are behind the wheel, steer your car into any object that will create a minor accident in a public/populated area. Take advantage while your attacker's attention is momentarily diverted to run, yell or scream. Get away and attract attention ...
This is advice to armed forces personnel? 1950s paradigm, indeed. Purcha tells Wired that "as a general rule research indicates and it’s generally understood that fighting back often can fend off the attacker and usually does not lead to greater injury."
I don't really think that Krusinski was distributing seemingly archaic advice to soften up potential victims, even assuming that he's guilty of the charges he faces. But it does seem he was doing a truly terrible job of running an effective, modern sexual assault prevention program and preparing people to react to unpleasant incidents.
All the more reason to keep a skeptical eye on supposed authorities, keep a close eye on your appointed watchmen, and take as much responsibility as possible for your own safety.
The security guard wanted this investigated but told MPD’s Internal Affairs, “He did not trust the Milwaukee Police Department to investigate the matter properly.”MORE »
That security [guard] asked the I-Team to hold police accountable. MPD’s Internal Affairs talked to all involved. The department’s report found, “the investigation revealed no evidence of criminal misconduct.”
It turns out the man was a Marine. The cop helped him out when the Marine broke a taxi window.
The report showed the cab driver did not want to press charges and only wanted the Marine to pay him back for the damages. The report said the “officer indicated he did not keep any of the money.”
It took this long for the state that's home to Rehoboth Beach (the mid-Atlantic’s Key West!) to approve same-sex marriage? It seems so. Delaware has followed fast on the heels of Rhode Island to recognize gay couples who bind themselves into holy matrimony. BuzzFeed reports:
The Delaware Senate passed a marriage equality bill Tuesday on a 12-9 vote, following the House's passage of the bill in late April.
Speaking in favor of the bill before the vote, Sen. Bryan Townsend said, "I hope we begin to treat as equals all those who wish to announce their love and commitment to the world."
Gov. Jack Markell will sign the bill, making Delaware the 11th state to recognize same-sex couples' marriage rights. The bill will go into effect on July 1, and all civil unions not converted to marriages or dissolved by July 1, 2014, will be automatically converted into marriages.
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The Boston Marathon attack has drawn new attention to the risk of radiation poisoning from a dirty bomb detonated in a heavily-populated urban area. Bostonians were inconvenienced by the shutting down of their city for a day; imagine if it had been a dirty bomb and a quarter million people had been ordered to evacuate their homes and offices, because of false fears about the amount of radiation which is actually dangerous. As Jon Basil Utley explains, the best way to prevent unnecessary future panics is by understanding the real levels of radiation risk.View this article
according to France 24. The Taliban have not limited themselves to attacks on secular parties either. A suicide attack on a rally held by the Islamist party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam killed 25 in a town near the border with Afghanistan. The violence has led some parties to rely much more heavily on campaigning and organizing online.This Saturday, Pakistan will hold an election as part of a democratic transition of government, a first for the country. But it hasn’t been peaceful, with the Pakistani Taliban waging a campaign of violence targeting several of Pakistan’s secularist parties that’s killed more than a hundred candidates and party activists,
During the last election in Pakistan, in 2007, leading candidate Benazir Bhutto, who had just returned from a self-imposed exile, was assassinated. Her husband was elected president of Pakistan a few months later. While Al-Qaeda initially claimed responsibility for the assassination, a UN probe eventually suggested elements of the Pakistani military may have been involved. When the former strongman General Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan earlier this year to participate in the election, he was instead charged in connection with the Bhutto assassination. A prosecutor investigating the assassination was shot to death last week.
Meanwhile the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan channeled fellow former athlete Gerald Ford, sustaining a non-terrorist related injury when he fell off a lift at en election rally. Khan and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, another frontrunner, have both expressed reservations and even opposition to the US-led war on terror in the region. Polling by Pew, meanwhile, shows 91 percent of Pakistanis dissatisfied with the direction the country is going and attitudes toward the United States souring even further since Barack Obama succeeded George Bush. Only 11 percent said they had a positive view of the U.S., and a majority said American aid to the country (more than 7 billion dollars since 2009) had either no or a negative impact. 79 percent back the Pakistani military, a prime recipient of American taxpayers’ money.
The problem with many environmental studies, conservatives are fond of pointing out, is that they are too often “garbage in, garbage out.” This means that the results of the studies are so dependent on their modeling assumptions that they will pretty much prove whatever the researcher wants them to prove. This same criticism can now be directed at an updated Heritage Foundation study released yesterday examining the welfare costs of low-skilled immigrants.
Conducted by Robert Rector and Jason Richwine, the study found that amnesty for illegals would impose a net fiscal cost of $6.3 trillion over the course of their (immigrants', not Rector/Richwine's) lifetime. “Given the U.S. debt of $17 trillion, the fiscal effects detailed in our study should be at the forefront of legislators’ minds as they consider immigration reform,” Rector and Heritage President Jim DeMint wrote in the Washington Post yesterday. Actually, as I noted here and here, what should be at the “forefront of legislators’ minds” is that a foreign-born underclass is a bargain for taxpayers compared to a native-born one and hence might help strengthen the safety net.
Be that as it may, these results are completely in line with Rector’s controversial 2007 study, which is credited with having derailed President George W. Bush’s immigration reform. That study found that low skilled immigrants imposed nearly $1 trillion in annual fiscal costs on American taxpayers.
However, it was riddled with methodological flaws most of which, unfortunately, the new study does not even acknowledge, let alone correct.
One big flaw that Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute points to is that in this study Heritage abandons its usual methodology of dynamic scoring. Heritage criticizes CBO and other government agencies for applying a static methodology when it comes to examining the fiscal effects of tax cuts. This approach counts the revenues the government looses from tax cuts, but does not factor in the revenues the government gains from the economic growth and productivity gains that these cuts engender, thereby greatly exaggerating the impact of tax cuts on government coffers.
But Rector does the exact same thing in his study. He counts the costs that welfare for low-skilled immigrants would impose on government coffers, but neglects the fiscal impact of the economic growth that these immigrants would spur. Studies that have done a fuller accounting suggest that the GDP-growth spurred is greater than the fiscal costs of low-skilled immigrants.
A 2006 analysis by the Texas comptroller estimated that low-skilled unauthorized workers cost the state treasury $504 million more than they paid in taxes in 2005. Without them, however, the state’s economy would have shrunk by 2.1 percent, or $17.7 billion, as the competitive edge of Texas businesses diminished.
Likewise, a 2006 study by the Kenan Institute at the University of North Carolina found that although Hispanic immigrants imposed a net $61 million cost on the state budget, they contributed $9 billion to the gross state product.
Furthermore, a 2012 paper for Cato Institute written by UCLA’s Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda that deployed a dynamic model found that immigration reform would increase U.S. GDP by $1.5 trillion in the 10 years after enactment. Hinojosa-Ojeda also ran a simulation examining the economic impact of the policy favored by Heritage: the removal or exit of all unauthorized immigrants. The economic result would be a $2.6 trillion decrease in estimated GDP growth over the next decade.
The other big problem with this version of Rector’s study, as with the last one, is that it compares the welfare costs of average American households with low-skilled immigrant ones to show how much more the latter consume in welfare. But if you compare the latter with lower-income American families, the advantage is on the side of immigrants.
Rector’s original study was also criticized for engaging in single-entry bookkeeping. This means he counted what the (American-born) children of low-skilled immigrants cost in welfare but not the taxes they’d pay when they grew up. Rector responds to this criticism this time by noting: “Even if all the children of unlawful immigrants graduated from college, they would be hard-pressed to pay back $6.3 trillion in costs over their lifetimes.” Perhaps, but that misses the point. If he doesn't want to count their contributions then he should remove them from the equation altogether. Most of these kids are Americans anyway. Simply look at the welfare consumption of low-skilled immigrant adults. That number would be a lot, lot less than the eye-popping $6.3 trillion because these folks don’t qualify for the full panoply of means-tested benefits that natives do.
But Rector completely gives his game away with his claims about the wage and employment effects of immigration that have nothing to do with the core question of his study:
[U]nlawful immigration appears to depress the wages of low-skill U.S.-born and lawful immigrant workers by 10 percent, or $2,300, per year. Unlawful immigration also probably drives many of our most vulnerable U.S.-born workers out of the labor force entirely. Unlawful immigration thus makes it harder for the least advantaged U.S. citizens to share in the American dream. This is wrong; public policy should support the interests of those who have a right to be here, not those who have broken our laws.
There is a vast and rich economics literature on this subject that Rector seems to be quite innocent of. Plenty of studies have found that immigrants don’t depress but stimulate the labor market for natives because they allow more businesses to form. As for the wage effects, even restrictionists’ favorite economist George Borjas’ 2003 paper failed to find any. Borjas disaggregated the impact of low skilled immigration on different native groups and found that, over the long run, the overall impact on their wages was zero. Only one group, high school dropouts, felt a noticeable negative impact. However, a subsequent study by Giovanni Peri and Gianmarco Ottaviano failed to corroborate Borjas’ findings even for native high-school dropouts. They found a positive long-run effect of 0.3 percent. In other words, no one — not even high school dropouts lose in the long run due to low-skilled immigration.
Rector managed to derail immigration reform last time because responsible conservative academics did not have time to take a close look at his claims. Not so now. Many respectable figures, including folks at the American Enterprise Institute and former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, are questioning Heritage and its methodology. For a great round up of conservative reaction to the study, read this excellent piece by WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin.
(For more on this and other immigration-related issues buy Reason’s latest ebook, Humane and Pro-Growth: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform, a compendium of Reason’s best work by its best writers over the last seven years for the bargain price of $2.99.)
- arrested for ... sexual assault. The head of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention program has been
- Louisiana's school voucher program is unconstitutional, says the state's Supreme Court. School funds must go to government's schools, say the justices.
- One Chicago police officer accidentally shot another police officer in the leg while attempting to shoot a dog. The officer is reportedly in "good condition," though there's no word on the fate of the dog.
- Federal, state, and local government agencies are among the worst toll dodgers in the Bay Area. We're sure they'll get right on that.
- Russia's human rights record is at its worst level since the Soviet era, says Human Rights Watch.
- Bangladeshi opposition parties have called for yet more street demonstrations after violent weekend protests left scores dead.
- Three women kidnapped in Cleveland and held for a decade have been returned to their families after one attracted the attention of a neighbor. Coming to an episode of Criminal Minds in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
- 3D printers may soon allow home hobbyists to make their own ... invisibility cloaks? Yeah, really.
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Reason's entire May 2013 issue is now available online. Don’t miss Matt Welch on how Rand Paul’s historic filibuster shook up the political status quo, Dr. Jeffrey Singer on how government killed the medical profession, and Veronique de Rugy on the economic case for welcoming low-skilled immigrants, plus our complete Citings and Briefly Noted sections, the Artifact, and much more.
I'll be on Fox Business' Money with Melissa Francis around 5pm ET today. We'll be talking about jobs, immigration, and the GOP response to Obama's tour of Texas.
story in today's New York Times quotes experts who think "Psychiatry's Guide Is Out of Touch With Science" (as the headline puts it). No less an authority than Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), complains that the DSM continues to suffer from a "lack of validity." In other words, we cannot be confident that psychiatry's bible, on which mental health professionals rely every day to diagnose patients and (not incidentally) get paid by medical insurers, identifies things that actually exist. That's a pretty big problem.With the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) scheduled to be published later this month, a
Broad Institute neuroscientist Steven Hyman, a former NIMH director, says the DSM's symptom-based taxonomy is "an absolute scientific nightmare." The NIMH is "reorienting its research away from DSM categories" because "patients with mental disorders deserve better," Insel recently explained on the institute's blog. "As long as the research community takes the DSM to be a bible," he tells the Times, "we'll never make progress."
What does Insel mean by "progress"? Or to put it another way, what is the "science" with which experts think the DSM should be in touch? The Times explains that critics like Insel and Hyman hope "the science of psychiatry [will] follow the direction of cancer research, which is moving from classifying tumors by where they occur in the body to characterizing them by their genetic and molecular signatures." I think they've skipped a step. While oncologists deal with objectively verifiable tumors, psychiatrists deal with hypothetical disorders identified by patterns of behavior. If those symptoms correspond to a biological abnormality, it is not one that can be verified by physical testing or examination. Shouldn't psychiatrists locate their "tumors" before investigating what causes them?
So far the search for the biological basis of mental illnesses has met with little success. University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist David Kupfer, who chaired the panel that produced the DSM-5, explains that the new edition does not incorporate the diagnostic insights gained from such research because there are none. "The problem that we've had in dealing with the data that we've had over the five to 10 years since we began the revision process," he tells the Times, "is a failure of our neuroscience and biology to give us the level of diagnostic criteria, a level of sensitivity and specificity that we would be able to introduce into the diagnostic manual." Or as the Times puts it:
Basic research into the biology of mental disorders and treatment has stalled, [DSM critics] say, confounded by the labyrinth of the brain.
Decades of spending on neuroscience have taught scientists mostly what they do not know, undermining some of their most elemental assumptions. Genetic glitches that appear to increase the risk of schizophrenia in one person may predispose others to autism-like symptoms, or bipolar disorder. The mechanisms of the field’s most commonly used drugs—antidepressants like Prozac, and antipsychosis medications like Zyprexa—have revealed nothing about the causes of those disorders. And major drugmakers have scaled back psychiatric drug development, having virtually no new biological "targets" to shoot for.
So the choice is between muddling along with the same symptom-based approach that has prevailed since the first edition of the DSM in 1952, with no way to know whether patients given the same label have the same underlying problem, and trusting in a supposedly more rigorous biological approach that so far has done nothing to improve diagnosis. Such is "the science of psychiatry."
op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this morning:For a good idea of how anxious Obamacare supporters are about the law's rollout, read former White House health adviser Ezekiel Emanuel's
Transforming the U.S. health-care system—which is larger than the economy of France—is one of the most daunting administrative tasks government has ever confronted. There will be bumps in the road; this is inevitable.
Setting up the exchanges will pose a host of technological challenges, such as digitally linking an individual's IRS information (which determines a subsidy level) to the insurance offerings in the individual's home area and to employment data—while simultaneously factoring in Medicaid eligibility.
Bugs in the computer software are bound to pop up, and the quality of the user experience will undoubtedly need improvement. Indeed, the Department of Health and Human Services has already improved the enrollment forms by reducing them to three pages from 21, and made them easier than the forms used by private insurers. But IT problems aren't the ones that should keep you up at night. Such glitches will be ironed out within a few years, and certainly by 2016 browsing your health-insurance exchange will be very much like browsing Amazon and other online shopping sites.
Got that? Obamacare's primary innovation—the health insurance exchanges—will probably work just fine...by 2016. This is not exactly confidence inspiring, and it suggests why some Democratic legislators are now openly worried about the law's implementation process.
As with a lot of what we're finding out about the law now, it would have been nice if the administration and its supporters had admitted this a few years ago. But "Let's pass Obamacare even though half its coverage expansion probably won't have much effect on health and the exchange technology will be dysfunctional for the first couple years" probably wouldn't have been as convincing an argument.
RU Sirius, a.k.a. Ken Goffman, has a trippy new book out called Timothy Leary's Trip Thru Time. You can buy it or read it for free at www.timothyleary.org. It's worth the effort.
"Timothy Leary's Trip Thru Time is a witty and informative look at the important events and philosophical developments in the colorful and controversial life of Dr. Timothy Leary. With dashes of Learyesque irreverence, author R.U. Sirius draws connections between Leary’s trips through psychology, psychedelia, politics and technology and the ecstatic highs and harrowing lows of his personal life. A must-read for appreciating Timothy Leary."
For thirty bombings, the leaders of the [Weather Underground] basically got probation. Timothy Leary spent four and a half years in prison for a little bit of marijuana, and likely would have spent the rest of his life there if he hadn’t played ball, or chess, with the Feds....
And so the crazy, tragicomic action-adventure movie portion of Timothy Leary’s trip through time — the years of prison, escape and exile — comes to a close as Leary emerges from prison broke; with his reputation in tatters and, as usual, excited and full of plans for the future....
An outbreak of sectarian violence in Burma earlier this year was largely directed by Buddhists at Muslims, and included the burning down of a mosque. The government of Myanmar (Burma) has now filed charges.
Burmese officials have charged six Muslim men over the death of a Buddhist monk during an outbreak of religious violence in March.
The men face death sentences for the monk's murder in Meiktila. The rioting saw at least 43 people - almost all of them Muslim - killed.
Human Rights Watch published satellite images before and after the violence, showing the damage done to predominantly Muslim communities, and has called the pattern of violence against local Muslims since last summer a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”. Thousands of Muslims were displaced by the violence this spring.
report released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics makes it apparent that crimes committed with firearms continue their steady, two-decade decline. In terms of specific policy, the recent focus on restricting "assault weapons" makes no sense in an environment in which the preferred weapon for committing those diminishing crimes is the handgun. And the recent obsession with extending background checks on people making legal gun purchases is a true head-scratcher, since most criminals don't buy their guns legally, with fewer than one percent acquiring their weapons at much-demonized gun shows.It's honestly a strange time for politicians to push ever-tighter restrictions on gun controls. Even if you're the sort of person who thinks that everybody's personal liberty should be restricted if somebody, somewhere, misbehaves, a
Some important highlights from Firearm Violence, 1993-2011:
- Firearm-related homicides declined 39%, from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011
- Nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%, from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 victimizations in 2011
- From 1993 to 2011, about 70% to 80% of firearm homicides and 90% of nonfatal firearm victimizations were committed with a handgun
- In 2004, among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of offense, less than 2% bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show and 40% obtained their firearm from an illegal source
For those specifically, and understandably, concerned about Newtown-style mass killings, there may be some comfort in knowing, "The number of homicides at schools declined over time, from an average of 29 per year in the 1990s (school year 1992-93 to 1999-00) to an average of 20 per year in the 2000s (school year 2000-01 to 2009-10).
For people interested in the defensive use of firearms, the report notes, "In 2007-11, about 1% of nonfatal violent crime victims used a firearm in self defense." In raw numbers, that's 235,700 incidents of armed self-defense. As we know, though, laws around the country can sometimes make it risky to defend yourself with a gun, potentially creating the risk of arrest and prosecution, so people may well be less likely to report such incidents than they are to report victimizations.
The report says that 40 percent of prison inmates obtained their guns illegally, but that's not the whole story. A vanishingly tiny percentage of prison inmates armed themselves at those gun shows that, we're told by politicians, are bazaars of lethal armament for criminals. Another 0.6 percent stocked up at flea markets. Aside from the explicitly illegal sources for 40 percent of guns are another 37.4 percent of acquisitions from "family or friend." Would anybody care to venture a guess as to how amenable to regulation the families and friends of violent criminals are likely to be?
And "military-style semiautomatic or fully automatic" firearms, of the sort targeted by Sen. Feinstein at the federal level, and by new laws in Colorado, Connecticut and New York, make up a whopping 3.2 percent of the weapons possessed by federal inmates, and 2 percent of the weapons possessed by state inmates, at the time of their offense.
This is not to say that there's nothing troubling to be found in the report. Murders and violent crimes are inherently troubling. It would be great to see them entirely disappear. It's also disturbing to see how much more at risk African-Americans are for homicide than are other ethnic groups. But the rate has gratifyingly dropped for everybody. Even if you believe that individual rights are subject to restriction to address abuses by some (and that such restrictions would actually have an effect), it's hard to see a pressing need for tough new laws to address a diminishing problem of crime committed with firearms. And that push for restrictions becomes preposterous when it's targeted at non-issues, like the use of "assault weapons" in crimes or the nonexistent flow of firearms to criminals from gun shows.
Don't miss Reason TV's Gun Fiction vs. Gun Facts: What Gun Control Supporters Don't Know:
contingent on voter approval of the new cannabis levies failed last night. "Facing a filibuster threat and defeat in the House," A.P. reports, "senators backed off the plans and adjourned Monday just before 10 p.m. without advancing the repeal." The measure, which as a constitutional amendment would have required approval from two-thirds of the legislature plus a majority of voters, never had much of chance. State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver), chief sponsor of the main marijuana regulation bill, put the odds that the repeal proposal would win support from two-thirds of the House at 1 in 1,000.As the Colorado General Assembly, with one day to go in its current session, finalizes legislation aimed at taxing and regulating marijuana, the good news is that a last-minute effort to make legalization
The bad news is that the state Senate, after rejecting the idea on five other occasions, finally agreed with the House that a driver whose blood contains five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter should be considered impaired. Unlike earlier bills, this one does not establish a per se standard, which would make someone testing at or above five nanograms automatically guilty of driving under the influence of a drug (DUID). Instead the bill, which is expected to be signed soon by Gov. John Hickenlooper, establishes a presumption to that effect that defendants can try to rebut by presenting evidence that they were not in fact impaired. In practice, however, this ostensibly rebuttable presumption may prove to be essentially the same as a per se rule, meaning that regular pot smokers, many of whom can drive competently at THC levels far above five nanograms, could be convicted of DUID even when they pose no threat to public safety.
Sen. Bob Corker (R- Tenn.), a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that he thinks the U.S. will be arming Syrian rebels soon. What is perhaps more disturbing is that Corker also said that, "We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known...”
Middle Eastern and Western troops already reportedly took part in an operation to arm Syrian rebels back in March, and last month the Pentagon said that the additional American forces being sent to Jordan was a sign that the U.S. will be increasingly involved in the Syrian civil war.
Increased involvement could mean imposing a no-fly zone or conducting air strikes, but Corker’s comments that “We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known” suggests that American forces are already assisting Syrian rebels.
Obama has come under pressure recently to ramp up involvement in Syria after reports emerged that the Assad regime may have used chemical weapons and thereby crossing the self-imposed “red line” after which the U.S. would supposedly intervene further in Syria. Matt Welch wrote about the crossing of this “red line” back in March.
If the Obama administration is going to authorize the arming of Assad’s opposition it needs to explain what steps will be put in place to stop whatever weapons the U.S sends from ending up in the hands of jihadist groups that are fighting against Assad. If the U.S. unknowingly arms rebels that are aiming to establish an Islamic state in Syria it is hard to see how American interests will be made safer as a result. Even among those who believe that humanitarian intervention is justified it must be admitted that Syria is not the same as Bosnia (despite what some might think) and that both sides of the Syrian civil war contain elements that we should not be assisting.
Should increased involvement in the Syrian conflict include the authorization of air strikes or the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria then there must be an explanation that details how long such an operation will last and where the administration believes Assad's allies will go were such an operation authorized. While NATO’s campaign of air strikes and the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya did help overthrow Gaddafi it has had less than desirable consequences in Mali, and it would be naïve to think that a similar operation in Syria would somehow have contained effects.
Lastly, the Obama administration needs to detail how involved the U.S. will be in a post-Assad Syria. Will the U.S. government be sticking around once the conflict is over? If so, on what authority, with what remit, and for how long?
Society has taken a weird fork in the road, says J.D. Tuccille, managing editor of Reason 24/7. It's weird, he says, because we've taken both paths. On one hand, policy in many areas has become more controlling and more intrusive. On the other hand, technology increasingly empowers individuals to evade surveillance and restrictions, hide and transfer funds, and acquire or even manufacture forbidden goods, including firearms, without regard to laws dictated from above. This growing divergence between what people can do and what their rulers want them to do may be a portent of an accelerating technology-fueled cold civil war.View this article
There's a specter haunting America's youth, President Obama warned in his commencement address to Ohio State University graduates Sunday -- the specter of "cynicism." In Obama's account, writes Gene Healy, sinister (but unnamed) "voices" have been busily corrupting the once-idealistic Generation Y with a siren song of "creeping cynicism" toward ambitious new federal crusades. They'll even "warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices."View this article
ousted Chris Kluwe as a punter, having picked up UCLA’s Jeff Locke as a fifth-round draft pick.The Minnesota Vikings Monday
The move has prompted many in the media to wonder, “Was it because of his outspoken, self-described libertarian political leanings, his declaration that he voted for Gary Johnson, and his interest in post-scarcity anarchic utopias?”
Oh, just kidding. People are wondering if he got booted because of his activism in support of gay marriage. Les Carpenter at Yahoo! Sports presumes this is the likely case:
Kluwe never asked if it was his activism that cost him his job. The Vikings never offered the thought even as the answer loomed obvious to everyone else. Two football players have spoken loud for gay rights issues in the last several months, specifically gay marriage: Kluwe and [Ravens linebacker] Brendon Ayanbadejo. Both have been cut. And while you could argue Ayanbadejo was a financial casualty for a team desperate to get under the salary cap, Kluwe was a modest budget strain to the Vikings; he was scheduled to make $1.45 million in 2013. What happened to him makes little sense. Except it makes lots of sense.
"I don't know if I'll ever know," he said by phone on Monday after his meetings with general manager Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier. "I'm not in the [organizational] meetings."
There is an idea in football that punters should be seen and not heard. Football coaches are men who were raised as linemen and linebackers and running backs. They come from a world where the punter is an annual story in the local newspaper and not an Internet sensation doing photo shoots for Out Magazine. They despise controversy.
Carpenter’s analysis was oddly missing any sort of statistical data to shore up the argument that Kluwe’s performance played no role in the team’s decision to release him. In fact, not a few pieces were written in this vein. Kevin Seifert at ESPN, though, gave some hard data and theorized that Kluwe probably would have been dumped anyway, but his side activism didn’t help:MORE »
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to the storming of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year should prevent her from holding public office ever again. Paul made the comments during a speech at the Spirit of Reagan Award Ceremony hosted by the Missouri Republican Party last week.
Sen. Rand Paul said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to the deadly attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya last fall should prevent her from ever holding public office again.
The Kentucky Republican made the remark last week in a speech to the Missouri Republican Party, which just released a full video of his address in a fundraising appeal Tuesday morning.
During a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this year, Paul told Clinton that he would have relieved her of her position because she didn’t read the cable communications requesting additional help and security in Libya.
Watch Paul’s speech at the Spirit of Reagan Award Ceremony below:
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I was all set to post something snarky about this story from Santa Clara, California, where a college went into lockdown because someone mistook a cardboard cutout of a gun for a real weapon. But hey, at least that incident involved a bona fide suspicion, mistaken though it was, that a ski-masked gunman was on the prowl. No such excuse is available for school officials in Suffolk, Virginia, who just did this:
A Suffolk second grader has been suspended for making gunlike noises while pointing a pencil at another student.
WAVY-TV reports the 7-year-old boy was suspended for two days for a violation of the Suffolk school system's zero-tolerance policy on weapons. He was playing with another student in class Friday at Driver Elementary. He heeded a teacher's order to stop....
Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw says a pencil is considered a weapon when it's pointed at someone in a threatening way and gunlike noises are made.
For more on school security scares and crazy zero-tolerance policies, go here.
Never mind the bollocks, here's the federal sudsidies for the export of rock-and-roll:
For the first time, the U.S. government's trade arm is stepping in to help the music business, funding trade missions to Brazil and Asia in recent months for the heads of a dozen independent music labels, which make up one-third of the U.S. music market.
It is a departure for the International Trade Administration (ITA), which has been spending $2 million annually to boost exports for the past two decades under its Market Development Cooperator Program but has never before given one of its $300,000 grants to the music industry, instead favoring sectors like machinery, technology and engineering services.
Until last year the agency hadn't received a music-industry application worthy of the award, an ITA spokesman said. Indeed, it hadn't received an application at all.
Now, reports Hannah Karp in the Wall Street Journal, the ITA is doling out help not just to rockers, but to indie rockers!
"We need to find new revenue streams," said Rich Bengloff, president of the American Association of Independent Music, whose idea it was to apply for the grant. He led the trips and arranged meetings with local distributors, mobile-phone carriers, booking agents and ad agencies. "We now need to adjust to a smaller monetization at home."
GG Allin (though it would help, I'm sure) to want to start flinging figurative feces at this revolting development.You don't need to be
You know what was one of the things that made rock and roll (and pop music, broadly defined) so freaking great? Precisely the fact that it not only developed without the sorts elite, class-based subsidies lavished on opera, ballet, later jazz, etc., but in spite of them. And to the not-inconsiderable role rock and pop played in defeating international communism, it's worth noting that pop music was constantly under attack both in the "free" world and behind the Iron Curtain.
For god's sake, even the major record labels hated rock (prefering the phony folk music parlayed during the '50s and early '60s) for the longest time. And now, indie rockers are the new cronies.
Must-read: Brian Doherty (circa 2000) on "The Strange Politics of Millionaire Rock Stars."
Republican Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said during last night's BuzzFeed forum that he smoked marijuana when he was younger, but that he disagress with Colorado and Washington's decision to legalize the drug (that he enjoyed without consequence). Here's BuzzFeed:
"Uhh...yes," Portman replied Monday when asked by BuzzFeed DC Bureau Chief John Stanton if he's ever smoked pot. "I think I've been asked that now, in 20 years, three times."
"I'm very involved, as you may know, on drug prevention," he said. "I have been since my first year in Congress."
In 2005, Portman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he wasn't much of a smoker when he did smoke pot.
"He told The Plain Dealer in 2005 that he never bought or sold it and didn't smoke it often," the paper reported.
"This was an era when almost everybody did it," he said in 2005. "It's something I regret."
According to ABC's write-up of the event, Portman went on to say that Colorado and Washington's decision to tax and regulate marijuana “isn’t the right way” to handle drug policy. Instead, he wants drug offenders to go through the drug court system.
Portman adds his name to the long list of powerful rich people who used marijuana without consequence, went on to have successful political careers, but now think anybody caught with an illicit drug should be funneled through the criminal justice system in the name of public health (and the children).
Watch Portman's interview here:
In 1997, Chinese-born entrepreneurs began regularly scheduled long-distance bus services that picked up passengers on the street. Today, “curbside” buses—lines that begin and end their routes at the sidewalk as opposed to a traditional station—make up the fastest growing form of intercity travel in the U.S. But over the past two years, the government has forced 27 bus companies based in Chinatown to close. The regulatory clampdown was fueled by a government study that found curbside carriers were disproportionately killing their passengers. Released by the National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency, the study concluded that curbside bus companies were “seven times” more likely to be involved in an accident with at least one fatality than conventional bus operators. But as Jim Epstein reports, the study is bogus. Not only is the “seven times” finding incorrect, the entire report is a mangle of inaccurate charts and numbers that tell us virtually nothing meaningful about bus safety. There’s no evidence that curbside or Chinatown buses are any less safe than any other kind of bus.View this article
- passed an Internet Sales Tax Bill. It is now headed to the House. By a vote of 69-27 the Senate
- Former Governor Mark Sanford and Stephen Colbert’s sister face off in a special election to fill the House seat vacated by Tim Scott.
- Chris Christie’s aides confirm the New Jersey governor had lap-band stomach surgery. For the children.
- Lauryn Hill was sentenced to three months in jail for not paying taxes on several years’ worth of earnings after pleading guilty last year. She’s paid more than $900,000 in the last few days.
- No cemetery is willing to bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
- The UN now says it’s not sure whether rebels or the Syrian regime have used chemical weapons.
- The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber that killed 25 at an election rally by an Islamist party.
- North Korea is moving its missiles away from their coastal launch sites.
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John K. Ross reviews Lisa Prevost's Snob Zones, a book that describes the heights of entitlement to which property owners ascend when faced with the prospect of new development. Prevost tours New England and finds an aging, declining populace bent on using regulation to exclude outsiders.View this article
walk her down the red carpet at her high school prom. Not accompany her, just walk her to the door. But officials at Liberal High School in Kansas blocked the request, citing school rules barring anyone over 21 from taking part in any prom activities. After local and national media picked up the story, school officials apologized to the family and said they may consider changing the rules to allow family members to walk a student down the red carpet even if they are over 21.Courtney Widener’s brother Casey, 22, serves in the Air Force and had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, so she thought it would be great if he could
You would imagine that a city the size of San Francisco would have a lot of serious, pressing legal issues that would keep the city attorney’s office on its toes. The office must have quite a big staff, though, if this is how City Attorney Dennis Herrera is spending his days. From the Los Angeles Times:
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera is lashing back at Monster Beverage Corp. with his own lawsuit a week after being sued by the Corona energy drink maker.
The root of the legal barbs: Herrera’s attempts to curb caffeine content in Monster products and his efforts to limit the company’s marketing overtures to children.
On Monday, Herrera’s office filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court and also accused Monster in a statement of pitching highly caffeinated drinks to minors as young as 6 years old.
This response follows a lawsuit filed by Monster accusing Herrera of singling out their company and, according to the Times, being more “motivated by publicity rather than science.” Well, how else is he going to run for elected office in San Francisco?
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I'll be on Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld tonight, so please tune in, DVR it, or watch along at your favorite mental hospital. I'm not sure of the other guests, but there's always Bill Schulz and TV's Andy Levy.
The show airs on Fox News at 3am ET/12am PT. For more details, go here now.
Classified-ads site Craigslist is a big, fat bully. That’s the conclusion many in tech policy circles have come to after a federal court ruled last week that the company can carry on with a suit against three smaller competitors. In Craigslist’s shoes, however, writes Jerry Brito, you might resort to bullying, too.View this article
- everybody" assumed the Benghazi attack was a terrorist act, which is a little off-message from the official White House story. Greg Hicks, the then number-two State Department official in Libya, says that "
- Ilinois is scheduled to have its healthcare exchange up and running in June, but the offerings will be a tad sparse. Only half as many insurance companies as the state expected have signed up to participate.
- A jihadist magazine is advertising for help with hacking and seizing control of drones. Interested applicants should apply to: The Smoking Crater, Afghanistan.
- Despite what might be called a shit storm of complaints about police conduct in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomber insists that subjecting the NYPD to an Inspector General or reining-in "stop and frisk" would "undermine public safety."
- Chicago faces a lawsuit over taxi regulations so restrictive that cabbies complain they can't make a living.
- Tens of thousands of rather courageous Russians turned out in Moscow to protest against Vladimir Putin.
- Having legalized marijuana for recreatonal use, Colorado is now considering reforming sentencing for other drug "offenses."
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The cause of the death was never determined. Sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said it could have been heat exhaustion or a heart attack. An official funeral was held for the animal.
"It's very unfortunate that a necropsy wasn't performed because that leaves everyone with the assumption that it was from heat exhaustion or heat stroke when in fact it may possibly be from something else."
After the incident Verret was reassigned to another position. Attempts to reach Sheriff Smith Friday for comment were unsuccessful.
A similar case in Georgia last October also remained unresolved. Laws in states like Texas and Florida make the killing of a police dog a felony, though Mississippi appears to have no such law on the book, though presumably there are laws against the destruction of government property. Animal rights activists want him fired.
writes in his response to last week’s big Medicaid study, the first experiment to compare individuals randomly selected to get Medicaid with a control group of individuals who were not selected.I agree with much of what Bloomberg’s Josh Barro
Despite finding that Medicaid beneficiaries have lower incidence of depression and reduced likelihood of facing outsized health expenses, Barro says that the study is “bad news for advocates” of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. That’s because “it did not find significant effects on the physical health measures that were tracked.” The study did find some physical improvements, but not at the level of statistical significance. As a result, he writes, “even if Medicaid does improve physical health outcomes, this study suggests the effects may not be large.” I am even inclined to agree somewhat with Barro’s argument that the study should be taken “as an indictment of medical insurance broadly” instead of just Medicaid; the study tells us more about Medicaid in specific than it does about insurance overall, but it does suggest that there may be a fair amount of over-insurance built into the system.
Yet this leads Barro to conclude that conservatives—and presumably most other critics of the president’s health law—should have been more engaged in the process of designing the law that became Obamacare.
Still, the “I knew Obamacare was a waste of money” reactions are misplaced. The financial effect is a big deal. Having Medicaid reduces your likelihood of facing medical expenses that exceed 30 percent of your income by 80 percent.
…All of this makes me wish even more that conservatives had been productive partners in health reform rather than trolls. If conservatives want a consumer-directed redesign of the U.S. health-care system that forces patients to pay at the margin more often for care -- in order to reveal what treatments are useful -- they could have gotten it as part of the health-care overhaul. They just also had to agree to include the progressive fiscal reforms that liberals wanted: ensuring universal coverage and transferring money toward poor people who can’t keep up with the rapidly rising cost of health care.
So it’s worth paying for the high(er) health expenses of Medicaid beneficairies even though those additional expenses don’t appear to produce better outcomes? The Oregon experiment clearly showed—as previous studies have shown—that individuals who got Medicaid utilized significantly more health care services, and thus had significantly higher health expenses. One effect of Medicaid, then, is to subsidize the purchase of additional health services while insulating individuals from the cost of those services. But why should taxpayers continue to fund increased use of health services if they do not lead to significantly better health?
Nor do I detect a strong case for why Obamacare critics should have worked with Democrats to pass the health law. Barro writes that the study “is yet another argument for ‘some health care for all but not too much.’” I am not as confident that a study showing little to no physical health benefits from health insurance is any kind of argument for publicly subsidizing health insurance. (Again, it's clear that health coverage increases health services utilization, but less clear that it improves health).
But even if it is, there’s little reason to believe that Democrats would have been willing to go that route with Obamacare. Barro’s financial-risk focused “not-too-much” approach would have pushed the law in the general direction of universal catastrophic insurance, or, at the very least, less comprehensive coverage. But Obamacare’s Democratic authors made the law’s guarantee of certain broadly defined “essential” benefits a key part of the law. And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has made it clear that her concept of meaningful health insurance does not include simple protection from catastrophic health expenses. “Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don’t pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus,” she said recently at a congressional hearing. “They’re really mortgage protection, not health insurance.” The clear implication is that health insurance should pay for a bunch of health services, not merely protect one from unusually large health expenses. And sure enough, what the Oregon Medicaid study reveals is that Medicaid pays for a lot of health care expenses—but doesn’t, in the process, appear to significantly improve one’s physical health.
Oskar Lafontaine, who was Germany’s finance minister when the euro was adopted and once called for the “end of the nation state” and a “unified Europe,” has called for the euro to be broken up.
Writing on Germany’s Left Party’s website Lafonatine spoke out against what he calls the “German hegemony” that he thinks has been hurting some countries in the eurozone. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici recently said that the era of austerity is over in Europe after the German finance minister said that he would be willing to be flexible on deficit reduction targets for France and Spain.
Today, Italy’s new prime minister, who has spoken out against austerity, is in Spain, another country where politicians have been objecting to austerity. Last week, Italy and France both stood united against austerity, with French President Francois Hollande saying that austerity was “no longer enough.”
Objections to the European single currency are nothing new to advocates of the free market. However, Lafontaine’s recent comments are the latest example of how the some on the left want the euro to be broken up in order for countries in southern Europe to organize their own recovery without Germany's influence.
It is difficult for any cohesive policy to be adopted in Europe without France and Germany being on the same page. At the moment French and German politicians are offering polices that differ on how to recover from the euro crisis. Because of the upcoming elections in September German policymakers are under extra pressure to make their case against the anti-austerity crowd in France, Spain, and Italy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently spoke to high school students in Berlin and said that it is often forgotten that there is a treaty that limits debt and budget deficits. Last month Merkel said that what some are calling austerity is actually only "balancing the budget," a refreshing dose of reality amid a debate on Europe's future that is oftentimes depressing and delusional in equal measure.
On Friday, we reported that Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson had unveiled the world's first completely 3D-printed firearm (except for a steel nail used as a firing pin). On Saturday, Rep. Steve Israel fulminated that it should be illegal to actually use your 3D printer to make such a gun, or even to make ammunition magazines, though his proposed law has no potential for preventing you from doing anything of the sort. And now, Defense Distributed has released video of the aptly named "Liberator" (apparently named after the mass-produced, single-shot pistol air-dropped to Europe during World War Two) being successfully test fired. Oh, and the plans are available for download (the site seems to be slammed, now, so you might give it some time). The world moves fast, doesn't it?
From Defense Distributed:
Wired reports that the ammunition used in the test-firing was .380, which is a fairly popular self-defense round, at the low end of power (and therefore an appropriate choice for an experimental plastic weapon). Interchangeable barrels in 9mm and .22 are also planned, though the gun is definitely still experimental and suffered a burst barrel. The Defense Distributed blog shows what looks like a broken receiver, too, though that could be add-on damage from the barrel.
This is more of a very impressive proof of concept than a complete game-changer, but it's ample demonstration that technology is rapidly outstripping the ability of governments to control how it's used. Look at what was accomplished here in just a few short months, and extrapolate a future of empowered individuals and frustrated Steve Israels from that.
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Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through April 2013:
Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade
April temperatures (preliminary)
Global composite temp.: +0.10 C (about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for April.
Northern Hemisphere: +0.12 C (about 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for April.
Southern Hemisphere: +0.09 C (about 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for April.
Tropics: +0.17 C (about 0.31 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for April.
Go here to see the monthly satellite data from 1978 to the present.
upheld the authority of local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders. California's Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) allow patients and their designated caregivers to cultivate cannabis through collectives without triggering criminal prosecution or nuisance actions under state law. But the court concluded that "nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders."Today the California Supreme Court unanimously
Neither the CUA nor the MMP explicitly requires cities to allow the operation of medical marijuana collectives within their borders. Those statutes do not pre-empt local bans by implication either, the court said, since state law does not require cannabis collectives; it merely makes people who operate them immune from certain specified consequences. "Persons who refrain from operating medical marijuana facilities in Riverside are in compliance with both the local and state enactments," the court observed.
The decision, involving a Riverside ban challenged by the Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, opens the door to similar ordinances in other jurisdictions that are hostile to medical marijuana. As the court noted, the state legislature, which is considering a bill regulating dispensaries, could still choose to pre-empt local bans. That is what I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use in Washington, does, giving the state liquor control board the final say on where pot stores will be located. By contrast, Colorado's Amendment 64 specifically allows a local veto, and the regulatory bill moving through the legislature makes local approval a condition for opening a marijuana store.
"Today's decision allowing localities to ban will likely lead to reduced patient access in California unless the state finally steps up to provide regulatory oversight and guidance," says Tamar Todd, a senior staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance. "The good news, though, is that this problem is fixable. It is time for the state legislature to enact state-wide medical marijuana oversight and regulation that both protects patient access and eases the burden on localities to deal with this issue on their own. Localities will stop enacting bans once the state has stepped up and assumed its responsibility to regulate."
Radley Balko has published a series of stories at The Huffington Post that use the government's response to the marathon bombings as a newshook to write about Boston's recurring role in the history of militarized policing. The most interesting article in the sequence, I think, is the segment on the modern drug war. Here's the setup:
In the early 1980s, Boston authorities introduced widespread stop-and-frisks, barricades, and other high-intensity policing tactics in high-crime neighborhoods like Roxbury and Matapan. Critics claimed police were implementing a "search on sight" policy of black men in some neighborhoods, doing away even with the low bar of needing reasonable suspicion before conducting stop-and-frisks. Police admitted a search-on-sight policy, but only for anyone known to be or suspected of being in a gang, along with anyone who associates with those people. They also claimed to be following a vague policy that allowed them to search anyone they felt "causes fear in a community."
According to a subsequent lawsuit, black men were stopped, patted down, and in some cases strip searched for no more than wearing the sports logo of a particular professional sports team. A Boston Globe investigation found 15 people who had been stripped searched on the street, but were never arrested.
State Sen. William Owens said the tactics were alienating an entire generation of black men, and that had effectively imposed martial law on some communities. Tensions boiled over in 1989 when a plainclothes officer shot 30-year-old Rolando Car during a stop-and-frisk after mistaking Carr's keys for a gun.
At another point, "Residents of Lawrence were issued passes that they had to show to get into and out of the neighborhood. Anyone entering Lawrence had their vehicle license plate documented by police manning a barricade. A letter was then sent to the registered owner of the vehicle to let him know the car had been spotted in Lawrence." The police chief, Balko notes, "described the tactics as a form of community policing."
One of the things that’s wrong with America these days is what might be called the Plausibility Plague. That’s the problem of pundits assuring readers that some outcome is impossible without actually considering the merits. As Ira Stoll observes, if you want to watch the plague in action, look no further than the reliably liberal pages of The New York Times.View this article
report finds that individual health insurance premiums will drop in New York state. Consultants at Deloitte conclude that the potential for “significant” individual market premium savings within the state in every scenario they examined.Good news for Obamacare? A new
So does this mean that the health law might actually help ease premiums after all? Probably not in most states. We’ve seen similar estimates for New York before, and we shouldn’t expect such savings everywhere. Indeed, one implicit takeaway from the report is that premiums will rise in the majority of states that don’t already have New York's strict insurance regulations in place.
Several reports have predicted that New York’s individual health insurance market premiums would drop. For example, a Society of Actuaries study last month found that premiums were expected to drop in New York by about 14 percent following the implementation of the health care law. But the same report found that, on average, the cost of insurance claim costs would rise about 32 percent of the law.
Indeed, what the Deloitte report really confirms is that in the relatively few states that already have extremely high individual insurance premiums thanks to regulations governing how insurers can charge based on health history, the institution of a health insurance mandate helps take the edge off the cost increase associated with those regulations. Greater cost savings could be achieved by repealing those regulations entirely. Instead, Obamacare will make similar cost-increasing requirements the law of the land in every state.
New York has an unusual individual insurance environment thanks to a 1993 law requiring insurers to abide by two regulations: guaranteed issue, which forces insurers to sell to all comers, and community rating, which heavily restricts how insurers can charge based on individual health history. The idea behind the law was to force insurers to cover everyone at reasonable prices. But as I noted for The Wall Street Journal back in 2009, the actual outcome was a health insurance “death spiral.”
Health premiums went up, and healthy individuals dropped out of the insurance pool—leaving a sicker, smaller pool and causing premiums to rise even higher, which in turn caused more individuals to drop out, and so on and so forth. In the end, New York was left with a very small, very sick, very expensive individual insurance market. Adding Obamacare’s health insurance mandate to the existing policy mix will bring more relatively healthy people back into the insurance pool, lowering average premiums costs, (while also, of course, requiring many people to pay premiums they didn’t pay before).
We saw the same effect in Massachusetts after Romneycare passed. The state already had community rating and guaranteed issue requirements on the books, so when the mandate went into effect, and more healthy people started paying into the insurance system, premiums went down.
All this really tells us, though, is that in the handful of states that already have highly regulated, highly expensive individual insurance environments, adding a mandate—requiring healthy individuals to pay for insurance that they had previously chosen not to buy—reduces the cost of insurance somewhat.
But not as much as getting rid of the initial regulations entirely. Repealing community rating and guaranteed issue could achieve substantially larger cost savings than adding a mandate: In 2009, the Manhattan Institute estimated that getting rid of the community rating and guaranteed issue requirements would reduce average individual premiums in New York state by 42 percent. In comparison, the Society of Actuaries and the Urban Institute have both estimated that the mandate will reduce average Empire State premiums by about 14 percent.
The vast majority of states don’t have New York’s insurance market regulations now. But they will once Obamacare is fully implemented: The health law will enforce versions of community rating and guaranteed issue in every state. And when that happens, overall claims costs will rise—by an average of about 32 percent nationally, according to the Society of Actuaries study. And while a few states, like New York, will see reductions, others will feel outsized impact: Ohio and Wisconsin are projected to see spikes of 81 and 80 percent, respectively, while Alabama and Indiana are estimated to rise by 60 and 67 percent.
she wasn’t a part of the reality-based community, peddling the story of a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islamic video on YouTube as the explanation for the attack in Benghazi.The line on Benghazi went from “wait for what the investigation reveals it to be” to “what difference does it make?” in a matter of months. When Susan Rice did the Sunday talk show circuit the weekend after the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi,
Documents revealed by a House investigation into the Benghazi response suggest the White House was aware of Al-Qaeda involvement in the plot even as it was ongoing, let alone nearly a week later when Rice appeared on television. This Sunday, some Congressional Democrats tried to distance themselves from Rice’s increasingly obviously dishonest explanation of the Benghazi attack. Via Fox News:
Removed from the CIA's so-called talking points were references to “Islamic extremists” and Al Qaeda in Libya. And five days later, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, made the Sunday talk show rounds to say the attacks were “demonstrations” sparked by protests in Egypt over an anti-Islamic video on YouTube.
However, the video is never mentioned in the numerous talking-points drafts, according to a Weekly Standard story last week, based in part on a 43-page House report and records of official emails.
“Well, it was scrubbed,” Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Steve Lynch told “Fox News Sunday.” “It was totally inaccurate. There's no excuse for that. It was false information…”
At the Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes provides a first draft version of CIA talking points and the final one on which Rice insisted she relied. Media Matters made a big deal out of the fact that reference to the protests being “spontaneously inspired” in both the first and final draft “vindicates” Susan Rice, deliberately obfuscating just what was excised from the first draft, which includes a specific mention of a link to Al-Qaeda (and indeed last week CNN reported three specific Al-Qaeda linked suspects with possible ties in Mali), the possible link to the Libyan extremist group Ansar al Sharia, and the role of the “wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya” (due in large part to the US-backed intervention in the 2011 civil war). All these things appeared in the original but were gone once the White House and other government officials had massaged the talking points to limit political damage. This has colored the administration’s “evolving” handling of the Benghazi incident.
Yet despite all this, somehow it’s the perceived conservative media’s fault if these latest revelations about Benghazi are treated with the same childish “I can’t hear you!” as every previous question about the administration’s “truthiness” is handled by his media apologists, even as it becomes increasingly clear the administration’s consistently misled the public on Benghazi.
legislation aimed at taxing and regulating the state-licensed marijuana stores that are supposed to start opening next year, creative interpreters of Amendment 64 are experimenting with a different approach to distributing cannabis. Their business model, although not quite as inscrutable as the strategy followed by South Park's underpants gnomes, neverthless raises a lot of questions. It goes something like this:As the Colorado General Assembly puts the finishing touches on
Phase 1: Grow marijuana.
Phase 2: Share marijuana.
Phase 3: Do not profit!
That last part is crucial, because under Amendment 64 only state-licensed outlets are allowed to sell marijuana. But in addition to letting people 21 or older possess up to an ounce of pot at a time, Amendment 64 lets them grow up to six plants for personal consumption and keep the produce of those plants (potentially a lot more than an ounce) on the premises where they are grown. The initiative, which is now part of the state constitution, also allows "assisting another person" in the cultivation or consumption of marijuana and transferring as much as an ounce to another person "without remuneration." If you put those provisions together, says Denver attorney Rob Corry, you've got permission for collectives that grow up to six plants on behalf of their members (not customers). The Denver Post reports that "an untold number" of such collectives "have formed in Colorado since Amendment 64's passage in November, hoping to meet consumer demand before retail pot stores' anticipated opening in 2014."MORE »
"Montana's Medical Marijuana Battle: Code of the West Filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen" is the latest offering from Reason TV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions and, and more Reason TV clips.View this article
Virginia Attorney General and outspoken conservative Ken Cuccinelli is currently seeking the governorship of the Old Dominion. If he loses that bid, writes A. Barton Hinkle, one contributing factor is likely to be the very sort of political grandstanding that Cuccinelli himself has long practiced.View this article
writes The New York Times editorial board. The paper of record's proposed solution? Laws that prohibit employers from "inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history until the person has been given an opportunity for an interview and a chance to prove his or her worth.""Sixty-five million Americans have criminal records that might cause them to be denied jobs, even for arrests or minor convictions that occurred in the distant past,"
Why stop at prohibiting formal background checks early in the application process? Why not also ban employers from reading local crimes stories? From using inmate locator websites, or Nexis? From simply Googling applicants' names? While the background check business continues to boom, it's no longer the only way to find out if an applicant has a criminal record.
Don't get me wrong. Blanket discrimination against people with criminal records is pretty horrendous (and one of the collateral consequences of the drug war that both drug reform advocates and prison reformers are trying to change). But you can't eradicate the consequences of over-criminalization by turning judicious employers into criminals. The smarter answer is to have fewer crimes, and thus fewer criminals.
A few months back, Stan Alcorn and WNYC ran a story on people who couldn't find work because of criminal convictions. Here's one job seeker's story:MORE »
pre-blaming conservatives should the scandal fail to take off:Well, here’s an interesting way to respond to the Benghazi scandal, back in the spotlight again this week as whistle-blowers prepare to testify before Congress that the government always knew the assault on the consulate in Libya was a planned terror attack and not a spontaneous protest in response to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon is
The charges seem potentially damaging and the accusers credible, but those trying to fan flames of scandal have so embarrassed and discredited themselves by pushing bogus story lines on Benghazi that it may be hard for the media and American people to take any new allegations seriously. For instance, the last time we saw a “Benghazi whistle-blower,” it was an anonymous Fox News source, but he seemed to know so little about basic special operations that military analysts called him a clown and an embarrassment.
Okay, that’s one. Any others? It appears not. That’s the only example he gives. I can’t think of any other examples of embarrassing theories put forth seriously, other than, well, the one put out by the State Department.
In the Fast and Furious scandal, analogous in many ways to Benghazi in way it played out in the media, there was real wrongdoing, but conservatives grasped at straws to make wider, unsubstantiated allegations that let the actual problems largely escape notice.
If the three new witnesses don’t get the attention they deserve, Fox News and its ilk deserves much of the blame.
Again, there’s still only one example. We don’t even know how seriously the public is treating this scandal yet, and somehow he’s already blaming Fox News about it. Is the rest of the media not going to cover Benghazi because of something Fox did? That makes no sense. The two likely, actual reasons why the witnesses “don’t get the attention they deserve” will be if: One, other news outlets don’t follow the story, which will reinforce the narrative of the media as the Obama Administration’s protectors; or two, if the general public simply doesn’t care about the scandal as much as people in the media and pundit class wish they did (a very possible outcome).
It takes a bit of nerve to try to somehow spin a possible lack of attention on the Benghazi scandal by other media outlets or the public on the credibility of Fox News.
Liberal Hawks. Right on cue comes Bill Keller in today's New York Times, making the argument that "Syria Is Not Iraq." Which is, I suppose, a much more succinct headline than "Listen to Me About Bombing a Middle Eastern Country in 2013 Even Though I Was Totally Wrong About it in 2003."The Obama administration will have a hard time cobbling together even a modicum of popular support for the (inevitable, IMO) U.S. military intervention into Syria without a re-mobilization of that once-noisy but recently scarce tribe of armchair agitators known as the
Keller was an opinion columnist in the run-up to the Iraq War, during which time he christened himself a charter member of the "I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club," a group of world-weary yet responsible souls "who have little in common with President Bush" but "have articulated the case for war better than the administration itself." Many of the "wary warmongers," Keller informed us, "are baby-boom liberals whose aversion to the deployment of American power was formed by Vietnam but who had a kind of epiphany along the way." If there is a Baby Boomerer sentence than that, I haven't encountered it.
Eight years later, after completing a stint as executive editor of The Times and returning to the opinion business, Keller gave us a long, juvenile account of how he had come to support what he now called "a monumental blunder" (hint: "The rest of us were still a little drugged by testosterone"). That navel-inspection exercise concluded that the "costly wisdom of Iraq" required a more cautionary approach, then applied to Libya, to go "more carefully through the mess, weighing the urge to support freedom against the cost of becoming part of a drama we don't fully understand."
Ah, but Keller was so much older then!
[I]n Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.
The United States has supplied humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure. But our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious. [...]
Whatever we decide, getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.
You would think that "getting over Iraq" would also mean getting over the elementary school-style argumentation about war demonstrating "credibility" and seriousness, but perhaps it's unsporting to stand between a man and his epiphanies.
Read Reason's symposium on the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq War.
The president’s at it again, visiting places to look at things.
President Barack Obama will travel on Thursday to Austin, Texas, the first stop in a new series of day trips designed to draw attention to policies and programs that help spur the economy, and build support for his economic policies, the White House said on Sunday.
In Austin, Obama will visit a high school and a technology company, and will talk with entrepreneurs and workers about proposals he made earlier this year to boost jobs and training.
The national unemployment rate is 7.5 percent, a low during President Obama’s time in office. The unemployment rate in Texas is 6.5 percent. Maybe the president should stop talking and take the time to listen?
Yep. Beer drones will be delivering frosty brews to festival goers in South Africa this August:
During August's OppiKoppi Music Festival, attendees can order beers from their phones to be delivered the event's District 9 campsite. The beer-equipped drones will swoop down and deliver beer via parachute to the appropriate customer, as explained in the video above. The organizers say the beer drones are now hand-guided, but in the future they'll fly on a GPS grid.
Nit-pickers are worried about stuff like beaning would-be drinkers, parachute failure, and the targeting problems in a dense crowd. But you gotta start somewhere, right?
More food drone blogging from Reason: these short items about the Tacocopter and Burrito Bomber, both of which are pipe dreams until the Federal Aviation Administration starts issuing final regulations for commercial use of drones in U.S. airspace in 2015.
And then there are the drones that rain down death rather than deliciousness.
Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz to see how much you know about some pretty basic scientific facts.The Pew Research Center and the Smithsonian are offering a short 13 question online quiz aimed at finding out what you know about textbook science and science in the news. They compare your results with 1,006 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a national poll. Only 7 percent of the adults tested scored 100 percent. For what it's worth, I am among the 7 percent. So why not take the
If you want a preview of the dismal future awaiting American health care, writes Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer, just look to Canada, where a private medical system has grown alongside the government mandated single payer system. If Canada’s experience serves as any guide, Singer explains, one can expect the one-tiered system in the U.S.—where anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status gets the same quality health care by the same physicians in the same hospitals with the same promptness—will slowly evolve into a two-tiered system, whereby those who can afford it will get state-of-the-art, prompt, courteous, consumer-driven health care, while everyone else waits on line.View this article
Maura Dolan of The Los Angeles Times previews a major decision expected today from the California Supreme Court:
The California Supreme Court will decide the fate of about 200 city bans on medical marijuana dispensaries Monday, resolving years of conflicting holdings by lower courts.
During a hearing in February, several justices indicated they favored upholding city bans. The justices' comments suggested the court would rule that local governments have wide policing powers that state medical marijuana laws have not usurped.
If the court rules in favor of the bans, many more communities are expected to zone dispensaries out of existence.
Read the rest here. Click below for Reason TV's report on the Los Angeles City Council's attempt to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.
Every good liberal knows that the GOP is the party of bigoted, narrow-minded “knaves and fools” that is in every way morally inferior to the noble and tolerant Democratic Party. But South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian apparently didn’t get the memo. Addressing attendees at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner last Friday, Harpootlian introduced Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Vincent Sheehen by commenting:
“In about 18 months from now, hopefully he will have sent [incumbent Republican Governor] Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from and this country can move forward.”
This was a not-so-subtle dig at Haley’s Indian-American Sikh heritage, although Harpootlian insists that he was only referring to Bamberg, Lexington County, where she was raised.
But if that’s true then Republican Jake Knotts, who supported South Carolina’s Republican Lt. Governor Andre Bower, Haley's opponent during the gubernatorial primary, was simply referring to her nice hairdo when he called her a “raghead.” (Sikh men wear turbans.)
President Obama has yet to condemn Harpootlian, who has a history of charged comments against Haley. At last year’s national Democratic convention, Harpootlian compared Haley to Adolph Hitler’s mistress, saying the governor “was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun.”
But the fundamental question that springs to my mind is that does a dude called “Harpootlian” have the moral authority to ask anyone -- especially someone called “Haley” -- to return "where they came from"?
H/T: Hans Bader at Competitive Enterprise Institute
Michael C. Moynihan writes about spending a week surfing Facebook and the web as an electronic jihadist:Over at The Daily Beast, former Reason staffer
My first few days as an e-mujahid were prosaic and predictable. On the innocuous-sounding Facebook group “Islam for Teenagers,” a moderator complained about the baleful influence of Hollywood on Muslim children because “Cinderella comes home at midnight,” “Dumbo gets drunk and hallucinates,” and “Snow White lives with seven guys.” If this was meant as a joke, the commenters missed the humor. Elsewhere, one of my new pals precipitated a discussion on the Prophet’s supernatural intervention into the produce department: the Arabic word “Allah” had been discovered in a bisected piece of fruit.
Much of this sounded like standard Christian conservative moralizing and revelation (though the mocking of photos of George W. Bush reading a book upside down reminded me more of a left-wing blog circa 2006). Some of it, however, was considerably uglier. Scrolling across my newsfeed was an image of the World Trade Center towers with the caption: “Twins: I’d Hit It ... With a 747.” This was followed by a marked-up photo of a $20 bill that, it was claimed, revealed the letters J-E-W-S. It was unclear if this was an attempt at humor.
For Moynihan, the experience was less about radicalizing jes' plain jihadists and more about desensitizing existing nutjobs to maximum violence:
It seemed implausible that the Web had somehow made Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into jihadists. But it did strike me that the world of online jihad could have had another effect on the Boston bombers: it might well have inured them to violence. The further I crawled down the extremist rabbit hole and the more caved-in skulls and headless corpses I saw, the more I found that my natural revulsion, usually an uncontrollable instinct, was easier to suppress.
And it wasn’t just my revulsion to violence that seemed to dull: the casual Jew hatred, homophobia (yes, there were references to the “sick” revelation that NBA player Jason Collins is gay), and sexism (“The beauty of a woman lies in her SILENCE rather than her SPEECH”) were so eye-glazingly common that after a week of uninterrupted consumption, I found myself scrolling past it without a second thought.
- A United Nations official has said that Syrian rebels may have used sarin gas. The news comes a day after a military research facility in Damascus was bombed. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that Israeli forces were involved in the bombing, however that hasn’t stopped one Syrian official from saying that the bombing constitutes a declaration of war by Israel.
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said that the president has no coherent plan for closing Guantanamo Bay. McCain also said that the plan should not include sending prisoners “…back into the fight where they can kill more Americans."
- The largest neo-nazi murder trial in Germany's history begins today.
- Congressional Democrats have distanced themselves from the Obama administration’s account of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year.
- Italy’s new Prime Minister is visiting Spain, a potential ally in the fight against austerity.
- North Korea says that Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor last week, will not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the U.S.
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Video surveillance cameras have been growing in popularity for years, but in recent weeks their advance has gotten a turbo boost. After helping to identify two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, they went from occasionally desirable to universally vital. There is no doubt that the cameras were a big help this time. But that doesn't mean they are generally a good idea, writes Steve Chapman, much less a crucial tool in fighting terrorism and crime.View this article
Swiss Army knife. Officials had suspended the boy for a day, and they wanted Bandermann to drive 100 miles, pick him up and then bring him back when the suspension was over. Bandermann refused, telling them they were overreacting. So teachers made the boy serve the suspension at the camp, isolating him from the other students, making him eat his meals by himself and not allowing him to take part in any activities for one day.Tony Bandermann was at work when he got the call. His son, Braden, was on a camping trip sponsored by California's Garden Gate Elementary School when teachers discovered he had brought a small
A new report reveals that in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and other places, American forces engaged in torture and other practices that violated U.S. laws and international treaties—conduct that has been condemned by the U.S. government when practiced by other governments. Sheldon Richman argues that the report also reveals (inadvertently) that when it comes to conserving the national-security state, it matters little which party is in power.View this article
I've got a piece up at The Daily Beast about how President Barack Obama, whose visit to Mexico included talk about drug policy, has been a hard-hearted and hard-headed drug warrior. Here's the start of the piece:
While a high school student at Honolulu’s elite Punahou School, Barack Obama was a high-flying member of a pot-smoking, party-hearty crew that called itself “the Choom Gang.” As biographer David Maraniss revealed in last year’s Barack Obama: The Story the future president “had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”
In his current trip to meet with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, Obama will once again be talking about illegal drugs and interceptions—and he will almost certainly continue his long habit of bogarting other people’s joints. As CNN summarizes it, one of the “key issues” of the trip is to strengthen efforts to stop the flow of pot, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs from Mexico into the United States.
Despite thinly sourced stories by Obama boosters that the president in his second term “will pivot to the drug war” that he privately considers a “failure,” there’s every reason to believe any new initiatives coming out of this Mexico trip will disappoint the liberals, libertarians, and smattering of conservatives who took Barack Obama seriously when he questioned longstanding drug policies.
Read the whole thing at The Daily Beast here.
Most people think the current push to give schools centrally defined standards, testing, and "accountability" began in the 1990s. In The Allure of Order, Noah Berlatsky reports, Jal Mehta makes the case that the blueprint was set in the Progressive era. Mehta also argues for a rather different set of reforms, aimed at transferring authority from administrators to teachers.View this article
broke the news that Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed have successfully created a (apparently) working gun with a 3D printer, Rep. Steve Israel, who has been warning of doom, doom!, should this day come, quickly issued a press release calling for new laws to head off the menace of DIY weaponry. Israel's objection is, allegedly, that Wilson's 3D-printed gun is made of ABS plastic, and therefore invisible to metal detectors (Wilson built a hunk of metal into his gun to address this concern, but it could easily be left out). It's hard to believe, though, that the congressman would be thrilled if Wilson had printed his pistol out of metal, instead. Not that it matters, though — the legal tweak that Steve Israel proposes is about as enforceable as a ban on photocopying your own ass in your home office.After Forbes's Andy Greenberg
Writes one of Rep. Israel's loyal minions:
Melville, NY—Today, following news of a working plastic gun made almost entirely on a 3D printer, Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) renewed his call for passage of his recently-introduced Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act that extends the ban on plastic firearms and includes homemade, plastic high-capacity magazines and receivers. The existing ban on plastic guns expires this year and does not clearly cover these major components. On Friday, Defense Distributed, a group of homemade gun enthusiasts, premiered a plastic firearm with only one small necessary metal part, a single nail used as the firing pin.
Rep. Israel said, “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser. When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban on plastic firearms.”
The Defense Distributed project circumvents the current Undetectable Firearms Act by including an extraneous block of metal in the gun, making the firearm detectable by metal detector. However, those who wish to smuggle guns onto planes and into high security areas will soon be able to download the digital blueprints from Defense Distributed’s website and forgo the extraneous metal, producing guns completely undetectable by metal detector.
The revamped Undetectable Firearms Act that Rep. Israel wrote makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm, receiver, or magazine that is homemade and not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an x-ray machine. The reauthorization would extend the life of the bill for another 10 years from the date of enactment.
legislation (PDF) that Rep. Israel proposes (that's the nervous fellow himself to the right) would establish a "security exemplar" as a standard that all homemade firearms would have to meet. Any weapon less detectable would be illegal. A similar restriction would be extended to homemade ammunition magazines. This piece of legislation doesn't propose to ban DIY manufacturing — just to restrict it to weapons with substantial metal components — but it's hard to see this as anything other than a shot across the bow. A shot from a popgun.The
Home manufacturers are the specific target here, since the legislation refers to the alleged threat posed by "computer numerical control mills ('CNC mills'), 3-dimensional printers ('3D printers'), and laser cutting machines" in the hands of "a person who is not a licensed manufacturer." And that's precisely the flaw with the "Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act" — it proposes to tell people what they can make with devices that are sitting in their workshops, out of sight of prying eyes. The bad guys from which the law is supposedly intended to protect us would be inconvenienced only if they actually took their printers to the airport to make their guns at the ticket counter in public view, though the law could effectively prevent harmless people from bringing 3D-printed guns and magazines made of plastic to commercial ranges (thought there's no requirement that ranges purchase magnetometers to test such weapons). What the law absolutely can't do is reach into private spaces to prevent the manufacture of forbidden devices.
I suppose Rep. Israel would argue that there's a symbolic importance to his legislation, to demonstrate the government's firm intention to keep the public safe from ... new things? What's really demonstrated by his proposed bill, however, is just how impotent the government is when opposed by newly empowered individuals.
You don’t need to be a fan of heavy metal music to be familiar with the band Slayer. Thanks to their graphic lyrical depictions of Satan worship, serial killers, and the horrors of war, the California thrash act has long enjoyed a well-earned notoriety—not to mention sold-out concert tours and album sales numbering in the millions. Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, one of the band’s founders and principal songwriters, died Thursday of liver failure. He was 49 years old.
To say Slayer has left a mark on American culture would be an understatement. Rap icons Public Enemy famously sampled one of Hanneman’s best guitar riffs on their landmark 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, while gangster rap pioneer Ice T collaborated with the band on a song about government brutality and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Slayer has of course influenced countless metal and hardcore bands since their formation in 1981, but their songs have also been covered by artists as different as Hank Williams III and Tori Amos. If you watch carefully, you’ll even see Hanneman’s band mate Kerry King playing the guitar solo in the music video for the Beastie Boys’ 1986 mega-hit “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” The very name Slayer has become a byword for extreme music.
As the author of the music for most of Slayer’s signature songs, including “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “Dead Skin Mask,” and “War Ensemble,” Jeff Hanneman deserves much of the credit for the band’s long and influential reach. He also shouldered a good deal of the blame for their controversial reputation. Most notably, the band has been accused of harboring Nazi sympathies due to Hanneman’s lyrics for the song “Angel of Death,” which is told from the perspective of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. While it’s certainly a provocative piece of music, the song is best understood as a form of horror fiction loosely inspired by reality, a first-person tale that tries to get inside the mind of an evil killer. To call that a form of Nazi sympathy misses the point of art entirely, as Hanneman often explained during interviews. As Billboard notes in its obituary,MORE »
The FDA announced earlier this week that it will investigate “any and all products with added caffeine.” FDA officials claim they were spurred to take action after the recent introduction of one product, Alert Energy Gum, a new caffeinated gum made by Wrigley, arguing that such a novel product necessitates a longer look at all foods and beverages that contain added caffeine. Baylen Linnekin reminds us that the last time the FDA warned the public about products containing caffeine, back in 2009, the result was a ban on the addition of caffeine to beers like Four Loko. Today, he says, there’s good reason to fear for the future of everything from caffeinated gum to energy drinks, and from caffeinated beef jerky to Mountain Dew, all of which could be in jeopardy under the strict interpretation of FDA rules the agency wields at its whim.View this article
is close to sending $1 million to Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for a “violence prevention unit” that will respond to tips about (presumably) potentially dangerous people. Here’s how Bradshaw describes it, via the Palm Beach Post:The effort by states to outdo each other with civil liberties violating legislation in the wake of shootings like those in Newtown and Aurora last year continues in Florida, where the state
“Every single incident, whether it’s Newtown, that movie theater, or the guy who spouts off at work and then goes home and kills his wife and two kids — in every single case, there were people who said they knew ahead of time that there was a problem,” Bradshaw said. “If the neighbor of the mom in Newtown had called somebody, this might have saved 25 kids’ lives.”
This is not actually a true statement. Murders, mass and otherwise, are also described as “the last person you’d expect to do it” (see: Ted Bundy) and not even in the specific cases Bradshaw mentioned was there a prominent account of someone knowing "ahead of time" something could happen. Anyone reading this can tick off a few names in their heads of people who “spout off at work.” They are highly unlikely to ever, ever commit a (violent) crime. The U.S. violent crime rate, in fact, has been going down for the last five years and is at historical lows.
But it seems its constitutional rights and civil liberties be damned for the sheriff. Via the Palm BeachPost again:
“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw said. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ ”
Because everyone who “hates the government” is going to threaten to shoot the mayor in Bradshaw’s world of simplistic examples. It’s a brazen attitude that doesn’t bode well for the program. Bradshaw says his department knows “how to sift through frivolous complaints” in regards to obvious worries about the prime opportunity this hotline provides for abuse by score-settling neighbors.
The Florida governor, Rick Scott, can still use the line-item veto to stop this state spending, and ought to. Bradshaw’s response to the Seth Adams shooting ought to be enough to disqualify from any state support for yet more police powers. In that case, a deputy shot an unarmed man while conducting an “undercover investigation” not targeting Adams or his family’s business. He was cleared in a report the family has said is full of holes. Bradshaw defended the shooting before any facts were even known, leaning on the fact that Adams was dead and so there was only one side of the story. There’s even a forum about all the alleged corruption in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office that the Florida governor’s office would do well to check out to help him decide against sending any money to this civil liberties abomination of a proposed program.
It takes a special talent to combine abuse of asset forfeiture with a free speech violation, and to blow a wad of cash while doing it, but the federal government is certainly up to the task. In its crusade against the Mongols Motorcycle Club and the group's (allegedly) criminal activities, the Department of Justice decided to use asset forfeiture in an effort to seize the organization's distinctive logo of a stylized Mongol warrior on a motorcycle. The goal, apparently, was a symbolic victory that would strip the group's members of the right to use the image.
But an image is how you you present yourself, which would seem to be an exercise of First Amendment-protected free speech rights, isn't it? At least, that's how a federal judge saw it, right before he ordered the federal government to reimburse the motorcycle club's attorneys to the tune of $253,206.
So, the feds being the feds, they're just doubling down.
From the Bend Bulletin:
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors just lost a quarter of a million dollars trying to take away the Mongols Motorcycle Club trademark. Now they’re trying again.
Revving up an unusual free speech case, prosecutors in Southern California filed racketeering charges against the related Mongol Nation in February. No one will go to jail if prosecutors prevail in what appears to be a long-shot case. In theory, though, the federal government could end up owning the trademark that it’s been chasing for years.
“I’m not aware of any other case where the government has sought forfeiture in this way,” David Loy, the legal director of the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said in an interview this week. “I have concerns about the case.”
Prosecutors consider the Mongols’ trademark name and logo of a ponytailed man riding a motorcycle to be signs of a criminal enterprise
Note that, even if the federal government somehow wins in its efforts to seize the Mongols Motorcycle Club's logo, it will have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a tactic that does nothing at all to prevent or solve crimes of any sort. The Mongols could just make up new patches, or do without them entirely. And the rest of us would get to wonder just how secure our trademarks are if we piss off the feds.
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column for USA Today, senior Brookings Institution fellow Michael O’Hanlon argues for a US-led Bosnia-style military intervention in Syria, pinning his call to the “surreal” but “appropriate” debate over whether the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons. O’Hanlon writes that the U.S. intelligence-verified use of Syrian chemical weapons would necessitate, at the minimum, U.S. missile strikes against the perpetrating units, citing Barack Obama’s “red line.” That red line, it ought to be noted, was shifted to the “systematic use” use of chemical weapons. The president also said just a few days ago that the international community would have to be “confident” of that use. Despite other interventionist machinations, then, Obama does not seem intent on lobbing cruise missiles into Syria just yet. The president is wise to be cautious and ought to be much more so, especially considering the government’s renewed internal debate over whether to arm Western-backed factions in the Syrian rebellion.In a
In his column, O’Hannon acknowledges the “do something” strain of politics in the pro-interventionist urges for Syria, but seems to believe having an idea for an “exit strategy” is enough “to get beyond the impulse just to ‘do something.’” Of course, it ought to go without saying that George Bush and Iraq war supporters thought they had an exit strategy too. O’Hannon’s proposed exit strategy is of the same vein as Joe Biden’s 2006 proposal for a kind of soft partition of Iraq. Like Biden, O’Hannon looks to the Balkans for a solution to Syria, and specifically Bosnia as the ”best first draft.” He compares the atrocities in Syria to those in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the collapse of Yugoslavia where a US-led intervention hit Serbian militias in the war zone to force a peace treaty (the Dayton Accords). O’Hannon acknowledges the situation in Syria is complex (because the insurgency is more “fractured”) but believes that American support for the rebels now and during an eventual Syrian reconstruction, as well as “pledges of international participation” would be enough to surmount that and wage a successful U.S.-led military intervention to finally topple the Assad regime. O’Hannon envisions an ethno-centered split of Syria to provide Assad’s Alawaites (sans Assad, naturally) territory along the coast and the Kurds territory in the north.MORE »
I realize expecting shame or embarrassment from most drug warriors is a bit too much, but would the possibility that cannabis actually fights HIV at least put an end to a lot of stupid arguing?
A study reported in The Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests this may be the case, as noted by Wired:
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — it's the chemical that gets the user stoned. Synthetic versions of it have been developed for research purposes, and it's this that was used to attack the HIV-1 virus, which represents the vast majority (more than 90 percent) of all HIV types.
The way it works is by interaction with the cannabinoid type-2 (CB2) receptor in white blood cells, specifically the macrophages. Macrophages are one of many types of white blood cell in humans. While the main cells, the lymphocytes, do the bulk of the work in fighting infection by tracking down and destroying germs with antibodies, macrophages form a kind of backup part of the immune system -- attracted to damaged cells, they surround and engulf them while also alerting lymphocytes of new dangers.
Macrophages have an unpleasant weakness, though, in that they are one of the first types of cells to be infected by HIV when it enters the body. The virus can live inside macrophages for days, weeks or months, travelling around the body, infecting other cells and acting as an extremely effective pollinator of HIV.
Stopping the HIV virus from infecting macrophages is one method researchers are investigating, as it would dramatically curtail the speed at which the infection progresses and would give time for other antiretrovirals to help keep it at bay, or even remove it.
The CB2 receptor in macrophages is stimulated normally when THC enters the bloodstream, so nothing unusual there. However, it appears that macrophages that have their CB2 receptor stimulated are stronger when it comes to fighting and weakening the HIV-1 virus.
Medical marijuana is already typically sought out by many HIV patients to ease some of the side effects of drug treatments. That marijuana may actually be helping weaken the virus as well would be a great discovery, if true. The federal government’s position (affirmed by both Democratic and Republican leadership) that marijuana has no legitimate medical use grows more and more foolish the more scientists are able to get around the Schedule 1 designation and perform research.
warned that the federal spending reductions included in the sequester would deal a "huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole." A month later, the $85 billion package of budget trims kicked in. But as The Wall Street Journal notes, today's jobs report suggests that, at least so far, the economy hasn't exactly taken a beating as a result:Back in February, President Obama
For months, economists have worried federal budget cutbacks — the “sequester,” in Washington lingo — could weigh on the job market and broader economy. Cutbacks kicked off March 1, but furloughs of government workers began in April — and while those furloughs don’t mean lost jobs, they could keep government employers from hiring. Beyond government jobs, federal cutbacks mean fewer government contracts for firms in the private-sector like, say, those in the defense industry.
So far, though, the public and private job markets seem to be holding their chins up.
Friday’s report showed the unemployment rate falling to 7.5% from 7.6% and the economy adding an encouraging 165,000 jobs. Figures for the previous two months were also revised up by 114,000 jobs. Retailers added 29,000 jobs, while the leisure and hospitality industry (restaurants, for example) added 43,000. There were also 31,000 new temp jobs, a sign that employers may add more workers in the coming months but are straddling the fence, though job growth in construction and manufacturing was snuffed out by bad weather and global economic troubles, respectively.
That's not an over-the-top amazing jobs report. But it's not the worst either, and certainly not the sort of doom-and-gloom the president predicted before sequestration kicked in. No wonder, then, that most Americans aren't particularly worried about its effects.
- need a warrant to search the contents of somebody’s cellphone. Florida’s Supreme Court ruled today that police
- The Department of Justice has sent letters to U.S. District Court in Maryland supporting citizens’ rights to photograph or film public police activity, arguing that the First and Fourth Amendment protect them.
- Could the growing disaster that is ObamaCare help Tea Party candidates in 2014?
- Could the growing disaster that is ObamaCare result in South Carolina’s legislature declaring it “null and void” in the Palmetto State?
- A squabble between a Japanese Bitcoin exchange and an American startup that was supposed to take over its operations in the states and Canada has led to a $75 million lawsuit.
- President Barack Obama’s approval rating is at a nine-month low.
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The Homeless Bill of Rights, the name applied to a new bill that recently soared through the California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on a 7-2 vote, is the latest in a long line of California legislation that has grabbed national attention for its sheer lunacy. Legislators in all states introduce crazy stuff to make a point, observes Steven Greenhut. But in California, these strange bills can actually make it to the governor’s desk.View this article
Foreign Policy on the war on drugs and Iran, a country which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has praised as having the "one of the world's strongest counter-narcotics responses."Marya Hannun has written a blog post for
According to the U.N., Iran seizes more heroin and opiates than any other country. Interestingly, Hannun’s post also point’s out that Iran has one of the world’s highest rates of opium addiction, which makes you wonder why the UNODC considers its strong counter-narcotics response is worthy of praise.
Unsurprisingly, Iran’s tactics have come under criticism from Human Rights Watch. From Foreign Policy:
But Iran's victory has come at a steep price. According to Human Rights Watch, the past few years have seen a dramatic increase in drug-related executions in the Islamic Republic. In 2011 alone, 81 percent of the country's over 600 executions were due to drug-related offenses, including the use of narcotics.
As Hannun says at the end of the post, “If this is what victory in the war on drugs looks like, it makes you wonder whether it's a battle that can ever be truly won.”
noted that H.B. 1317, a marijuana regulation bill moving through the Colorado legislature, had been amended so that advertising restrictions suggested in the original version are now required. In addition to a general ban on "mass-market campaigns that have a high likelihood of reaching minors," those restrictions include a requirement that "magazines whose primary focus is marijuana or marijuana businesses" be kept behind the counter in stores open to people younger than 21 (the minimum age for consuming marijuana under Amendment 64). The Associated Press says this provision would "treat pot magazines like pornography," but it is actually stricter in the sense that the cutoff age is 21, whereas pornography can be legally sold to anyone 18 or older. Then again, the bill apparently would not prohibit the sale of High Times to minors; it would just require them (and everyone else) to ask for it rather than pulling it off a rack.On Monday I
The provision's author, state Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), says he thinks it qualifies as a constitutional restriction on commercial speech, since the magazines he has in mind consist largely of ads for marijuana and related products. Yet in 2001 the Supreme Court overturned a Massachusetts law banning tobacco billboards within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, saying it unconstitutionally interfered with speech aimed at adults. The same logic should also condemn Gardner's ban on public display of marijuana magazines, especially since those publications include not just commercial speech but editorial content that under the Court's precedents qualifies for the strongest form of First Amendment protection. While the Court has upheld age limits for the purchase of sexually explicit material, it has never said the government may require merchants to keep magazines under wraps based on their political content, which is essentially what Gardner is proposing.
As Mike Riggs pointed out last year, a Louisiana law enacted in 1977 bars the sale of drug-oriented magazines to anyone younger than 18. I don't know whether that law has ever been challenged on First Amendment grounds. (If anyone has seen any relevant cases, please let me know.) But note that Gardner's rule is broader in two ways: It applies to adults between the ages of 18 and 21, and by banning display of the magazines (which the Louisiana law does not do) it limits the ability of publishers to reach even readers who are 21 or older. Another point to consider in rating the rule's prospects of surviving judicial review: Although a federal lawsuit might be problematic given that many of the covered magazines would include ads for a product that is still banned by the Controlled Substances Act, the Colorado Supreme Court has said the state constitution's free speech clause offers even broader protection than the First Amendment does.
The latest CNN/Time/ORC poll found only four in ten Americans are willing to give up some civil liberties in efforts to curb terrorism in the United States. Interestingly while a majority of Independents (56 percent) say they are unwilling to give up some civil liberties for security, a majority of Democrats (51 percent) say they are willing. Republicans are split, with 46 percent who agree with Independents and are unwilling to curtail civil liberties in efforts to curb terrorism, while 41 percent say they would be willing.
Older Americans over 50 are significantly more likely than younger Americans to be willing to part with some civil liberties for security. Fifty-seven percent of Americans under 50 say they are unwilling to give up some civil liberties if that were necessary to curb terrorism in the US. In contrast 38 percent of Americans over 50 agree.
The poll interviewed 606 adults on April 30, 2013 on both landline and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Months before the critical Democratic primary, the woman in Central Park was raped. The sheer horror of the crime was eased slightly by the rapid arrest of suspects. Boy, the NYPD was good. There had been, on that warm spring evening, a night of wilding: some 30 youths had descended on the park from Harlem, committing mayhem on the late night reservoir joggers. Some were robbed and beaten, but except for "the jogger" they escaped serious harm.
What few people in the city knew was that the case against the Central Park Five was contrived. The cops got the kids, five of the perhaps eight they had picked up that evening. But they knew they had, in addition to the other robbery and mayhem victims, a woman hovering near death. They needed suspects, confessions. The city needed closure.
The five were young, between 15 and 17, easily confused. The cops separated the five and coaxed individual confessions—each of them, exhausted, gave up a part of the story. Their alibi, had they thought to use it, was that they were in another part of the park half a mile away, assaulting other people. But none of the five thought to use it. In the city, in the journalistic community, and certainly at the Post, no one thought much of the fact that there was no matching DNA evidence with the rape victim. Who knew about such things? They had the confessions, didn’t they? Moreover, the only people in the city claiming the kids were innocent were the black press and activists who had already discredited themselves by making false charges, and their slogan--"The Boyfriend Did It"--was hardly likely to appeal to fair-minded people who might have questioned the discrepancies in the prosecutions case.
Soon after the confessions, the boys recanted. But no one believed them. Several months later, a violent serial rapist was arrested. Years later, in prison, he owned up to the jogger assault....
When I saw first photos of the suspects, it struck me they didn't have that blank dead-eyed look that one had learned to associate with teenage murderers. They looked instead kind of normal, as if they could have been classmates in my kids' (private) school. They had parents vouching for them. But we all, at the conservative Post and elsewhere (including even liberal tribunes like the famous Pete Hamill) believed the cops.
Read the whole thing here.
45,557 kids attended mainline public schools. (During the same period, 34,673 kids were enrolled in charters, or 43 percent of the total public school population.)Last year in the District of Columbia,
This year, there are 22,000 kids of the waitlist for a spot at a charter school, according to the Public Charter School Board on Thursday. Since many kids are on more than one waitlist that number isn't as big at it initially seems. But it is still an unconsciounably huge number:
At Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, a top-tier school in Ward 5, every prekindergarten seat went to a sibling of a current student this year, forcing every other applicant onto the waitlist....
At the same time, schools also continue to accept applicants after their lotteries are over. At schools like E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, a top-performing school in Ward 1 offering prekindergarten through 10th grade, that means the nearly 2,000-person waitlist is still growing, said Richard Pohlman, the school's chief of operations and policy.
Waitlists like E.L. Haynes' or KIPP DC Public Charter School's 2,500-person list can make the charter school admission process daunting for parents, even causing some to turn away from charters.
That last bit means the 22,000 number may actually significantly underestimate the demand for good charters—many parents never even show up in the system. After all, popular D.C. charter have roughly the same rates of admission as top Ivy League colleges.
While Washington tussles over a 844-page immigration reform bill, the municipal government in DC is trying to offer driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has introduced a bill that would allow people living in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses in the nation’s capital.
The bill would create a two-tiered system of licenses. Immigrants who can’t prove they are in the country legally would get licenses or identification cards that would not be valid for federal purposes such as boarding airplanes or entering federal buildings.
The mayor notes it would be against federal law to issue the same license to illegal immigrants as to legal residents and citizens, but some immigration advocates oppose the “second class” ID, preferring apparently for illegal immigrants to wait indefinitely.
Via Instapundit comes the latest update of the unemployment rate chart from AEI's James Pethokoukis. The good news is that unemployment came in at 7.5 percent, which represents a four-year low. The bad news includes a lot of things, but let's just focus on two.
First, the U-6 measure, which tracks discouraged workers and part-timers who want a full-time gig, nudged upwards to 13.9 percent.
Second, the final cost of the Obama admin's stimulus program has come in somewhere north of $800 billion. By the administration's own estimation (see above), we clearly got less than nothing for all that extra spending (read: debt and future taxes).
UKIP) has won almost a quarter of the vote in the council elections held in England and Wales. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the two governing parties, both lost councilors while Labour gained .The United Kingdom Independence Party (
UKIP, the U.K.’s largest eurosceptic party, has been causing the Conservatives some grief recently after failing to adequately address the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union.
In a speech earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron tried to appease some of the fears some Conservatives have about the EU by giving a speech in which he promised that the British would be offered an in/out referendum on EU membership, but only after the next general election. The speech was criticized by UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, who rightly pointed out that waiting until after the next general election, scheduled for 2015, is too long.
Although local councils in England and Wales have limited influence on national politics the result is an indication of how the British public are feeling about the state of their country. UKIP do not have any Members of Parliament and as so have no influence over national policy. However, as British historian Timothy Stanley has pointed out, Farage views the role of UKIP as a party that can nudge other parties in his preferred direction:
But the big story is the rise and rise of a tiny party once derided by its critics as full of fruitcakes and closet racists. It probably won’t gain any parliamentary seats in 2015: the electoral system is stacked against it and while Ukip’s support is broad, it isn’t deep enough in individual constituencies to win anything. This doesn’t seem to trouble Nigel Farage who says that he sees his party as playing the same role that the SDP played in the 1980s – driving the political agenda in his preferred direction. That statement could cause some controversy within Ukip because the party is split over whether it’s a pressure group or a serious candidate for government. Farage is correct that its best shot at relevance comes from posing as the former, but the taste of victory in this round of elections could delude many activists that they stand a chance of becoming the latter. Success breeds success, but also hyperbole and vanity.
David Cameron and the Conservative leadership need to rethink their approach on the U.K.'s membership of the European Union. The eurosceptic party Cameron once referred to as “fruitcakes” have done well in local elections, and while it is unlikely they will gain seats in the House of Commons at the next general election they could poach Conservative voters.
Given that the eurozone is expected to contract more than expected in the coming year, and that only a third of Britons want to remain in the European Union it might be worth Cameron holding a referendum on EU membership before the next general election. Such a move would help limit the influence of UKIP and appease many eurosceptic Conservatives who would like to leave the EU.
Here's a brief recap of the damage done to Cook by Harmon-Wright:
The first two rounds, fired at point-blank range, tore into Cook’s face and arm. Another round, fired as Cook was driving away from the shooter, entered her brain. A fourth round severed her spine and veered into her heart, killing her. A telephone pole brought her Jeep Wrangler to a halt.
contrasted with an eyewitness account:And here's how Harmon-Wright's report about the incident
[Harmon-Wright claimed] that he was responding to reports of a suspicious woman sitting in her vehicle on the school’s property, and that when he went to take Cook’s license, she rolled up his arm in her Jeep’s window and drove off, dragging the officer and forcing him to shoot.
Kris Buchele, a carpenter who was working near Epiphany on Feb. 9, told WUSA9 the week of the shooting that "[Harmon-Wright] was not dragged and that he shot [Cook] before she drove away"; that "he didn't have his arm caught because the officer's left hand was on the door handle and right hand was holding a weapon"; that "he distinctly saw her roll up the window all the way before the officer shot out the glass and killed her."
As I've written before, this could've been avoided if Harmon-Wright had been properly screened for the job:
Soon after Harmon-Wright was arrested, it was revealed that he had a tarnished military record, a drinking problem, and a history of harassing Culpeper residents. The first two problems nearly kept him from getting the job, and no one at the Culpeper Police Department will say why they didn't.
I'm not a big fan of locking people in cages, but I find it appalling that Daniel Harmon-Wright is going to do three years for murder while Cook got the death penalty for trying to avoid a confrontation.
Opponents of school choice often act as if the eternal chase after standardized test scores is the only purpose of any scheme for educating kids. If you can't guarantee a boost in the number of ovals little Johnny fills in correctly with his Number 2 pencil, they don't want to hear about offering alternatives to families and students. So it's pleasant to live in an age during which some places offer lots of education options, and to realize that the diversity that results is its own justification.
Just the other day, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorialized:
In a report released last month, the state Department of Public Instruction found that students attending voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine scored lower than public school students in Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District on the state standardized achievement test.
Only about 13% of students in the voucher schools scored proficient or better in math and about 11% scored proficient or advanced in reading. In MPS, about 19% of students were proficient in math and about 14% in reading.
Neither of those results is cause for rejoicing - and certainly not proof of concept for the voucher schools. The voucher experiment is 23 years old; it allows students who qualify to accept a publicly funded voucher worth $6,442 annually to attend a qualifying private school.
Advocates for the choice schools argue only the test scores of low-income MPS students should be compared to voucher students. That would give the voucher students a small advantage in reading. But we think the DPI got it right. It argues that because the income limit was raised, it's appropriate to compare all kids.
It's true that in the state-mandated long-range study of the voucher schools, there are signs of an advantage. The School Choice Demonstration Project has used sampling techniques to track similar groups of students from 2007 to 2011. The findings show that voucher students made reading gains in one of the years studied that were higher than a matched sample of MPS peer students. Math achievement was similar in all the years studied. But the advantage in reading was only for one year and might be related to introduction of a new state testing requirement for the voucher schools.
So, even while conceding that there are evidence of educational improvemets in students allowed to attend schools of their choice, the Journal-Sentinel editorial board concludes that this "underwhelming finding surely is not enough to justify a broad expansion." It's all about test scores, and they want to see big numbers, damn it, before they'll let families pick and choose among schools.MORE »
"I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better,” the vaudevillian Sophie Tucker quipped. Tucker’s witticism will not strike most of us as controversial. Yet some really smart people are anxious to persuade the rest of us that more money can’t buy us more happiness. New research by two economists at the University of Michigan, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, finds that more money does buy more happiness. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey delves into this oddly controversial claim.View this article
When Obamacare was being sold to the public, the president and his supporters made big promises about the law. But three years later, it looks a lot more limited. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if we’re hearing more about what Obamacare won’t do as what it will. Here are five things we probably shouldn’t count on Obamacare to do:
It won’t control health costs. A few months after the health care law passed, former White House advisers touted the law’s cost controls: The law, they wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, “puts into place virtually every cost-control reform proposed by physicians, economists, and health policy experts.” Apparently it wasn’t enough, even for the law's backers. A group of prominent liberal supporters of Obamacare recently launched a new effort to control health spending. The Washington Post reported that “While all support the Affordable Care Act, they tend to agree that additional legislation will be necessary to control health-care costs.”
It won’t lower premiums for everyone. During his first presidential campaign, Obama pitched his health care overhaul as a way to “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.” But average family premiums have continued to rise since Obamacare passed, insurers and actuaries are warning that they’ll rise even higher as the law kicks in, and even Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now says that some premiums will rise under the law. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also seems to think the law could cause premiums to spike.
It won’t reduce emergency room usage amongst the poor. One of the arguments for the law was that it would reduce emergency room utilization by giving low-income individuals Medicaid coverage that would allow them to see a doctor instead. But according to a study published this week, a randomized controlled trial found that giving individuals Medicaid does not reduce emergency room usage.
It may not make low-income Medicaid beneficiaries healthier or happier. That same study found “no significant effect of Medicaid coverage” on any of the objective physical health markers it looked at. The study looked at a very poor, very sick population, and examined health markers that should have been some of the easiest to treat. The study’s authors also reported that they “did not detect a significant difference in the quality of life related to physical health or in self-reported levels of pain or happiness.” Roughly half of the law’s coverage expansion is projected to come via Medicaid.
It won’t get rid of “uncompensated care.” This is a little bit technical—but it’s important. Related to the argument about emergency room usage, Obamacare supporters said the expense of the law could be justified in part by the way it would reduce uncompensated care—the “free” care hospitals give to those without insurance. The federal government was already paying hospitals for that care, the argument went, so why not just use that money to pay for insurance instead? President Obama claimed that the cost of uncompensated care was raising insurance prices nby an average of $1,000. Now it looks like the Obama administration believes that uncompensated care costs won’t go down any time soon. The president implicitly admitted this when he proposed adding $360 million to a fund that pays hospitals for uncompensated care, a bump that would effectively get rid of the cuts the health law was supposed to enable.
says that in questioning Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before reading him his rights, the FBI invoked "the public safety exception to the Miranda Rule, a procedure authorized by a 1984 Supreme Court decision which in certain circumstances allows interrogation after an arrest without notifying a prisoner of the right to remain silent." But as I pointed out in my column last week, police are always free to question an arrestee before Mirandizing him; it's just that statements elicited by such questioning ordinarily cannot be used to prosecute him. The Times reports that in addition to saying he knew of no additional bombs or terrorist plots during the initial interrogation, Tsarnaev confirmed his involvement in the attack on the Boston Marathon. Without the "public safety" exception, that admission of guilt could not be used against him in court. But given all the other sources of evidence in this case—including video, photographs, witnesses, and leftover bomb-making materials as well as any statements Tsarnaev made after he was read his rights—that exclusion probably would not matter much.The lead story in today's New York Times
By contrast, in New York v. Quarles, the 1984 Supreme Court case that gave rise to the public-safety exception, the Miranda rule initially led to the dismissal of a weapons charge because police found the suspect's gun after he indicated where he had hidden it in response to a question asked before he was read his rights. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor pointed out in a concurring opinion, it is not clear that the gun actually had to be excluded based on the Miranda rule as it stood before the Court invented the public-safety exception. "Nothing in Miranda or the privilege itself requires exclusion of nontestimonial evidence derived from informal custodial interrogation," she wrote. In any event, when you look at the details of the arrest it is clear that there was in fact no emergency that made it necessary to ask the suspect about the gun before he was Mirandized. The gun posed no immediate threat, and police would have easily found it if they had simply looked around a little. The Tsarnaev case looks like a mirror image of Quarles. On one hand, there was a plausible public-safety rationale for questioning the arrestee before reading him his rights: a fear of unexploded bombs or imminent attacks. On the other hand, excluding the results of the initial interrogation probably would not have a crucial effect on the suspect's prosecution.
But even in cases involving a true emergency where excluding an un-Mirandized confession would make it substantially harder to convict the suspect, the public-safety exception makes no sense if you accept the logic of Miranda v. Arizona. That decision was based on the recognition that questioning someone in police custody is inherently coercive. Unless the arrestee is clearly informed that he is under no obligation to reply, the Court reasoned, the Fifth Amendment guarantee against compelled self-incrimination is apt to be compromised. The wisdom of that safeguard is confirmed by the very expectation that supposedly justifies the public-safety exception: that a suspect will talk more readily if he thinks he has no choice.
Fear of ticking bombs may have been a good reason to question Tsarnaev before Mirandizing him. But it is not a good reason to admit what he said in response as evidence against him, because the existence of an emergency does not make police custody any less coercive. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Coming to in a hospital and confronted by FBI agents anxious to find out if he knew of any imminent threats, the gravely wounded Tsarnaev may very well have concluded that he had no option but to answer their questions. The next day, after he was informed of his rights and the charges against him, he probably had a different view of the situation. Once a suspect understands that he need not answer questions, critics of Miranda worry, he might clam up. But that is the whole point. There is always the danger that people who know their constitutional rights may choose to exercise them.
On April 30, Reason.com published a blog post by Jacob Sullum titled "A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks? I Am Still Waiting to Hear One." The post took issue with a recent New York Times op-ed piece by Robert Levy of the Cato Institute titled "A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks." We are now happy to continue the conversation by publishing a response by Levy, who writes:
On the merits, even if Manchin-Toomey will have little or no effect on gun violence and isn't the legal regime that libertarians would like, the compromise bill is superior to the legal regime we now have. The relevant comparison is not Manchin-Toomey vs. no background checks. Instead, it’s existing law vs. the improved version of the bill that I've recommended.
View this article
The broader philosophic question is whether libertarians should endorse a compromise solution that does not comply with pristine libertarian principles. My answer is yes, if the compromise moves us in the right direction and we declare on the record our more principled position. That’s why most libertarians support private Social Security accounts and school choice even though we believe that government should not be involved in personal retirement decisions and education.
A tragedy struck a Kentucky family on Tuesday, when a 5-year-old boy accidentally killed his 2-year-old sister with a .22-caliber rifle. The family apparently didn’t realize the gun was loaded and their mother had stepped outside, leaving them briefly unattended.
The gun belonged to the boy, which has caused a certain reaction from certain people, particularly those in the media who thrive on seeing sinister motives in anything involving children. Did you guys know that there are gun manufacturers out there who target their products to children?
You did? Oh. So did I. Apparently some do not. Or at any event are acting as though they do not. Here’s NBC News:
Firearms made for minors represent a new market for gun makers, said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center. As the gun market has been saturated, Sugarmann said, gun makers have followed a “path trailblazed by a wide range of other industries, particularly the tobacco industry, and focused its efforts on women and children.”
Er, what? This was a .22-caliber rifle. The .22-caliber is actually well-known for being a kid’s first real gun. The Boy Scouts offer a merit badge for learning to shoot with them. I am not a big gun person (and thanks to experts here like Jacob Sullum and J.D. Tuccille, I don’t have to be), but even I learned to shoot a .22-caliber when I was a kid living in the wilds of New Hampshire. This was around third or fourth grade, certainly a few years older than the boy in the Kentucky incident, but not that much. This is not a new thing, except maybe for those who think the whole country looks like Manhattan or wish it did.
Mother Jones took the fearmongering a step further, yanking a bunch of pictures of kids with guns from the web site for .22-caliber rifle manufacturer Crickett and suggesting that “some people” might find them “unsettling,” as though their parents had dressed the children up in Nazi uniforms. I did not fall under the realm of “some people” for the pictures (not even by the obviously staged baby pics). I went to visit Crickett’s site myself and found it crashed, so I was unable to get my own sense of context, but here’s a bunch of pictures Mother Jones grabbed from them:
Sorry, I don’t feel terribly unsettled.
Despite the growing evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria there is not widespread support in in Europe, Syria’s neighbors, or the U.S. for arming Syrian rebels. More than 50 percent of those polled by the Pew Research Center in France, the U.K., and the U.S. oppose sending Assad’s opposition weapons.
Among Syria’s neighbors opposition to arming the rebels is highest in Turkey and Lebanon, while in Jordan, where support for arming Syrian rebels is the highest, just over 50 percent of those polled said they would support arming Assad’s opposition.
From the Pew Research Center:
Growing evidence that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad may have used chemical weapons against its own people has led to a crescendo of demands for the US to intervene in the Syrian civil war. But neither the American people, nor Europeans, nor Syria's neighbours wholeheartedly support such a move.
The lack of sustained public backing, both in America and in the region, is the political context in which the Obama White House will "rethink all options" - as Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel put it on Thursday.
Demands for some form of American action against Assad have intensified now that the US government has acknowledged that it too, along with the British, French and Israeli governments, thinks that chemical weapons have been employed by the regime.
Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.
How Van Halen explains Obamacare, salmon regulation and scientific grants," and even though the Pasadena crotch-rockers do no such thing, I'm willing to forgive a little headline hyperbole in the service of classing up the sludge of politics with a little Diamond Dave.Washington Post Wonkblogger Ezra Klein has a post up titled "
Klein's parable has to do with the band's famous rider demanding that there be no brown M&Ms in the dressing room. Turns out—if you believe the unreliable but always entertaining narrator David Lee Roth—this was not the ultimate symbol of '70s rock star entitlement that it was played up to be, but rather an ingenius way for the band to tell whether the venue was paying attention to the most granular of details; a crucial consideration given VH's expensive and complicated lighting and production equipment. "If I came backstage and I saw brown M&M's on the catering table," Roth recently recounted, "it guaranteed the promoter had not read the contract rider, and we had to do a serious line check."
Richard Feynman dipping an O-ring into a glass of ice water in front of Congress after the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. Klein sees the brown M&Ms myth first as a cautionary tale about media and its consumers: "Tales of someone doing something unbelievably stupid or selfish or irrational are often just stories you don't yet understand."There are any number of policy analogies you can take away from this anecdote. For me it calls to mind the simplifying stunt by another Pasadenan attempting to cut through the fog of bureaucracy:
So President Barack Obama's favorite red-tape gag about overlapping salmon bureaucracies masks a regulatory imperative that is understandably complex, and perennial conservative/libertarian mockery of surfacely bizarro-sounding research grants gratuitously guts some important academic work for a statistically insignificant payoff. So far, so plausible, this "Van Halen Principle."
But Klein then uses the VHP to give Washington what I think is a bit too much benefit of the doubt:
It would be nice if the government's mistakes were typically a product of stupidity, venality or bureaucracy. Then we would need only to remove the idiots, fire the villains and cut the red tape. More often, the outrageous stories we hear are cases of decent people trying to solve tough problems under difficult constraints that we simply haven't taken the time to understand.
$16 muffin scandal I will almost always say things like:I share Klein's weariness at even unjustifiable Mickey-Mouse outrage stories. When invited to comment on the latest
The nation's current and future deficit is driven overwhelmingly by health care, military and retirement spending, each of which involve ever-increasing promises that have proved politically career-threatening to scale back.
That's why politicians prefer instead to talk about $16 muffins and $600 toilet seats -- it's the least expensive way to simulate fiscal responsibility. The boy who cries muffin while signing onto every new major entitlement and military adventure is not in any position to deliver lectures about tax-dollar stewardship. And never forget that the spending frenzy is distinctly bipartisan
But the outrageous stories that my ears register rarely involve "decent people trying to solve tough problems," but rather politicians and bureaucrats (however decent they may otherwise be) responding to perverse incentives by extending expensive policies that inflict tangible damage on comparatively powerless individuals. Which tough problem are we even pretending to solve anymore with the Drug War? What is one "decent" thing you can say about domestic sugar subsidies, or farm subsidies overall? Even laws that spring from more observably defensible motives often end up unfairly burdening the little guy while giving a pass to the very mega-corporation that spurred the reform. Government does many things it shouldn't, which makes it more difficult to do the things it should.
So yes, let's use the Van Halen Principle to, as Ezra Klein says (and often does in practice), "work harder to understand why" government "decided to remove the brown M&M's in the first place." But let's also be open to discovering that few if any federal employees are as rad as David Lee Roth.
The Cato Institute is currently playing host to an important libertarian debate over civil liberties and the law enforcement response to the Boston Marathon bombings. The starting point was a recent essay at the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas journal by libertarian New York University law professor Richard Epstein, who argued, “given the stakes, law enforcement officials should follow all leads, even if that means more surveillance and ethnic profiling.”
That piece prompted a response by Cato’s Jim Harper, who argues that Epstein “sounds needless anti-privacy notes.” Here’s a portion of Harper’s argument:
Where I think Professor Epstein goes wrong insofar as he wants law enforcement to have its way is in setting aside “technical difficulties” and “means-ends” questions as peripheral. For me, the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable searches and seizures demands coordination between means and ends in light of the technological situation (both in terms of doing harm and discovering it). It is not a given that government action is reasonable, and no amount of priority given to a threat makes an incoherent response reasonable and constitutional.
Cato has now published a response by Epstein, which contends:
Harper would have a stronger case if he had tried to comment constructively on serious proposals that are put forward. But to take an ill-advised a priori position that does nothing to advance either the protection of human life and human property, both private and public, is inconsistent with any sound libertarian position. Remember that libertarians like myself, and I hope Harper, regard the protection of both as the primary function of the state. Harper’s careless and imprecise invocation of the Fourth Amendment cannot conceal this fundamental truth.
looks at today's jobs report and wonders if Obamacare isn't making it harder for employers to hire full-time workers:Jim Pethokoukis
The report contained worrisome signs that President Obama’s healthcare reform law is hurting full-time, high-wage employment.
While the American economy added 293,000 jobs last month, according to the separate household survey, the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons — “involuntary part-time workers” as the Labor Department calls them – increased by almost as much, to 278,000 to 7.9 million. These folks were working part time because a) their hours had been cut back or b) they were unable to find a full-time job. At the same time, the U-6 unemployment rate — a broader measure of joblessness that includes discouraged workers and part-timers who want a full-time gig – rose from 13.8% to 13.9%.
Let’s see, more part timers and fewer hours worked. Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin says what we’re all thinking: “This is not good news as it reflects the reliance on part-time work. … the decline in hours and rise of part-time work is troubling in light of anecdotal reports of the impact of the Affordable Care Act.”
J.D. Tuccille and I have noted some of those anecdotal reports here and here. Going forward, Obamacare's employer mandate has the potential to seriously complicate things for part-time workers and their employers: The law fines employers who don't provide health insurance to workers who put in more than 30 hours. But rather than pay for health insurance for workers who work, say, 31 or 33 hours a week, it seems quite likely that lots of employers will simply cap the number of hours their part timers can work.